By Kathleen Megan, Hartford Courant
STORRS – University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst said Wednesday that any suggestion that the University of Connecticut as an institution is “indifferent to or dismissive of any report of sexual assault in astonishingly misguided and demonstrably untrue.”
“This is so obvious to those of us who work here and deal with these serious and painful issues that I am stunned that I even have to say it,” Herbst continued, speaking at a Board of Trustees meeting, “or that any reasonable person would believe otherwise.”
Herbst said that “as individuals, we have nothing but heartfelt compassion for any victim of sexual violence, anywhere.”
Herbst was disturbed by allegations made earlier this week by seven current and former students who filed a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights charging that the university failed to protect them from sexual assault on campus and did not respond adequately after they reported the assaults.
“We prioritize campus safety above all else, and I commend any student who is working to raise awareness and to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault,” Herbst said.
At a press conference Monday, Carolyn Luby, a current UConn student and the lead plaintiff in the case, said that when she was the victim of sexual harassment the university responded with “resounding silence” to her situation and has showed “deliberate indifference” to the existence of a “rape culture” on campus.
Herbst said that because of federal privacy regulations, the university cannot comment about specific case unless the students sign a document waiving those rights.. “This is challenging for us, because we would like to be as transparent as possible in all we do,” said Herbst.
However, she said she would address one issue raised by a recent UConn graduate in a Monday press conference. Kylie Angell, who graduated from UConn in May, said then that she was told that the student who had sexually assaulted her had been expelled, but then saw him on campus two weeks later.
“There are circumstances under which the university should notify a student that another student — who may have been suspended or expelled from campus — will be returning if they are returning,” Herbst said. “It is my understanding that this notification did not take place in a case, that occurred three years ago, and it should have. This process was corrected.”