Commission urges Title IX reforms at University of Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – An independent commission appointed after the settlement of a Title IX lawsuit last year issued recommendations on Saturday for how the University of Tennessee’s campuses can improve Title IX compliance.

Its suggestions include selecting a Title IX coordinator for the entire University of Tennessee system, and enhancing campus staffing and resources to address Title IX issues, including case management, care and support, education and training.

Another recommendation involved updating and modifying policy, grievance procedures and student codes of conduct.

“While training, prevention and awareness efforts have increased on nearly all UT campuses over the last several years, there remain pockets on each campus where training could be more consistent or comprehensive for both students and employees,” the commission’s report says.

After the university agreed to a $2.48 million settlement of Title IX complaints filed by eight women last July, University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro announced the commission and its mandate to review programs throughout the university system.

The women accused Tennessee of fostering a “hostile sexual environment” through a policy of indifference toward assault complaints against athletes.

The commission said athletic departments should review their process for accepting transfer students “to ensure that it addresses the recruitment of those who have been found responsible of sexual violence, dating and domestic violence and violent stalking behaviors.”

The committee also suggested conducting training sessions to effectively reach student-athletes as well as employees, making sure all are aware of Title IX reporting obligations.

“We will meet with the individual campuses to discuss the Commission’s findings,” DiPietro said in a statement. “We are determined, as the Commission noted, to continue enhancing our Title IX program across all of our campuses and becoming a national model on both prevention and response.  The new coordinator will have the authority and resources to ensure that.”

Members of the commission include Washington attorney Stanley Brand, University of Connecticut Title IX coordinator and Office of Institutional Equity associate vice president Elizabeth Conklin, Sports Law Associates president Janet Judge and Nashville-area attorney Bill Morelli. DiPietro had announced the committee members in September.

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