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Justice department says Utah State University failed to respond appropriately to sex assault reports

A lawsuit claims Utah State University discriminated against and then expelled a student with Down syndrome. (Photo: Mike DeBernardo, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah State University failed to respond appropriately to sexual assault allegations made by students, according to a review by the Department of Justice.

And based on that report, Utah State officials say they revamped several areas that involve the reporting of sexual assault on campus.

This news comes after a three-year review by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).  In a statement sent to KSL Newsradio, the school said “the review found that, during this three-year time period, there were university-wide failures in addressing sexual misconduct.

The investigation began after the northern-Utah university came under scrutiny for its handling of claims that former USU football player Torrey Green raped several women during his time as a student.

“We’ve made sweeping changes since 2016,” wrote USU President Noelle Cockett, “and this agreement further lays out a series of steps we will take to prevent sexual misconduct, and respond to it appropriately when it does occur.”

USU was notified that it was being investigated by the DOJ in January 2017.  The DOJ was alerted to problems on the USU campus after a story was published by the Salt Lake Tribune about a former USU football player accused of raping several women while he was a student at USU.

That story led to an internal investigation by the school. In a statement released to the media on Wednesday, USU revealed that the findings of its internal investigation mirrored those of the Department of Justice.

Since the initial story drew the scrutiny of the DOJ, Utah State University officials say the atmosphere of the campus, as well as guidelines pertaining to students, have changed.

For example, administrators have overhauled the oversight and compliance of Title IX, a portion of education amendments of 1972, guaranteeing that people are protected from discrimination based on sex in education programs, or activities, that receive Federal financial assistance.

In a statement, USU says they have “reorganized fraternity and sorority life,” and trained student-athletes in sexual assault prevention as well as bystander intervention.

New students at USU receive in-person bystander intervention training in their first semester of school.  And the school says they’ve changed the Student Code to represent changes in how the university will handle anonymous reports, and reports where the victim doesn’t want to participate in an investigation.