U of Tennessee Settles Sex Assault Lawsuit for $2.48M

July 6, 2016

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville will pay $2.48 million to settle a federal lawsuit brought by eight women against the university's football program, The Tennessean reported Tuesday.

The women reported that they had been assaulted by six athletes -- including five football players -- and that the university and its athletic department largely ignored the behavior. University officials found five of the athletes to be responsible for sexual misconduct but allowed them to remain on campus, graduate or transfer to other colleges. Two of the players are currently awaiting trial but have pleaded not guilty to the rape charges. The lawsuit also accused Butch Jones, the university's head football coach, of calling a player a traitor after he helped one of the women who said she had been raped.

The university admitted to no wrongdoing in the settlement but will allow a special independent commission to review how it responds to sexual assaults, including the university's use of the Administrative Procedures Act, a disciplinary process criticized for favoring athletes. The university also agreed to no longer provide football players with a list of attorneys when they are accused of assault.

As part of the settlement, the women will withdraw two federal complaints over the university's handling of sexual assaults filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, though that does not mean the office will necessarily end its investigation.

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