UT offers answers about gender discrimination settlement

The university has created around six additional positions to help those efforts.

As part of Tuesday night's settlement, lawyers for the University of Tennessee and the plaintiffs made public a series of questions and answers about the agreement.

Here are some of the highlights as offered by the parties:

Q. Does any of the $2.48 million to be paid by the athletic department and the administration include taxpayer or tuition dollars?

A:  No taxpayer dollars, no student tuition or fees, and no donor funds will be used to fund the settlement. Funds will be sourced from other income generating activities within the University.

Q. What already has been spent on this lawsuit?

A:  As of June 8, the state has paid $220,862.82 to the law firm of Neal & Harwell for legal fees and other expenses.

Q. Is the University admitting guilt or negligence by settling?

A. No. The settlement agreement specifically provides that the University is not admitting guilt, negligence or unlawful acts

Q. Who negotiated the settlement?

A:   Bill Ramsey with Neal & Harwell has been the lead outside counsel on the lawsuit.  Aubrey Harwell assisted in the negotiations with the plaintiffs’ attorney, David Randolph Smith of Nashville.

Q. When did settlement negotiations begin?

A: They have been discussed off and on since before Smith actually filed the lawsuit February 24, 2016. The current negotiations began in earnest in April.

Q.  What sort of approval process did the settlement terms undergo at the University level?

A: The settlement was approved by the vice chair of the Board, the UT System president, the UT Knoxville chancellor, the UT Knoxville vice chancellor and director of athletics, the UT general counsel and the UT interim chief financial officer.

Q. What other approvals were required?

A: Once approved by the University, the settlement had to be approved by the state attorney general, the state comptroller and the governor.  The court and leaders of both Houses of the Tennessee Legislature were informed of the settlement.

Q.  When was the Board of Trustees notified about the settlement?

A: UT Board Vice Chair, Raja Jubran, was involved in settlement discussions beginning in April. Members of the Executive & Compensation and Audit & Compliance Committees were informed of settlement discussions in a non-public executive session with legal counsel in early May. Shortly before final approval of the agreement, other Board members were informed in another non-public executive session with legal counsel.

Q. When were the governor and other state officials notified about the settlement?

A:  The governor, state attorney general and state comptroller were informed as agreement on the settlement appeared to be likely.

Q. Why settle?

A: It was estimated that this case might take another two to three years to try and the cost to litigate through trial and appeals might be as much as $5.5 million, not including the emotional costs to the plaintiffs and others involved or the reputational costs to the University from negative story after story in the court of public opinion.

Q.  What is UT doing now? 

A:  The University has been improving its programs to ensure security and well-being on its campuses for years but has intensified its efforts since 2011. The team of professionals addressing Title IX for the University are nationally recognized in their respective fields. Their work is aimed at educating, preventing, responding appropriately, and caring for students involved in sexual abuse incidents. Six additional positions to support these efforts have been approved and filled or are in the process of being filled. The settlement agreement also includes a number of other enhancements to the University’s Title IX program, including the pending appointment of a special independent commission of nationally recognized individuals with expertise on establishing and maintaining federal law compliance programs to review the University’s Title IX and sexual assault prevention programs system-wide.


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