Attorney Gloria Allred is shown speaking with students and alumni who allege Occidental College administrators violated federal standards for dealing with their rape, sexual assault or retaliation claims. April 18, 2013 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Occidental College, the Los Angeles school where thirty-seven students and alumni filed a federal complaint last spring about rape on campus, has quietly settled with at least ten of the complainants. Under the settlement, negotiated by attorney Gloria Allred, the ten received cash payments and are barred from participating in the Occidental Sexual Assault Coalition, the campus group that organized the campaign that has resulted in a federal investigation.
The settlement, reported by the Los Angeles Times September 19 on page one, immediately provoked criticism. Danielle Dirks, a criminology professor who has been active in the campaign, told the Times that requiring “the women to remain silent and not to participate in campus activism could have a chilling effect at Occidental.” “Part of the reason so many women have come forward is because other assault survivors have been able to speak openly about their treatment,” Dirks said.
The settlement negotiated by Allred, Dirks said, “effectively erases all of the sexual assaults and the college’s wrongdoing.”
Allred, asked to comment, said in an email, "Our clients have made a choice to resolve this matter. It is a confidential matter."
Under the federal civil rights complaint filed last year, the thirty-seven said the school had “deliberately discouraged victims from reporting sexual assaults, misled students about their rights during campus investigations, retaliated against whistleblowers, and handed down minor punishment to known assailants who in some cases allegedly struck again.”
Faculty and staff joined students in criticizing the administration of Oxy president Jonathan Veitch. In May, 135 faculty members and ninety-four administrators and staff members signed a resolution in support of Oxy students regarding sexual assault issues.
Investigators from the federal Office for Civil Rights are expected to arrive on campus soon. Allred said in her email that the students involved in the settlement "are free to participate and serve as witnesses and discuss the alleged sexual assaults and/or rapes" in the federal investigation, and also "in any campus proceeding and in any legal proceeding and/or in any court of law."
Chloe Angyal writes about why it is important for survivors of sexual assault to tell their stories.