victoriahewlett Utah State University
Victoria Hewlett

Lawsuit settlement requires Utah State University to improve response to sexual assault

Agreement stems from a 2015 rape of a student at a fraternity house.

A former Utah State University student who was raped at a fraternity house has agreed to a $250,000 settlement that will also require the school to increase its oversight of its fraternity and sorority system.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that that agreement ends a lawsuit brought against the university by Victoria Hewlett, now 22. She reported being raped in July 2015 by a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, Jason Relopez.

The lawsuit contended that five other women had reported to the university that Relopez sexually assaulted them before Hewlett’s attack and before administrators took steps to act on that knowledge. 

Relopez remained on the Logan, Utah, campus until his arrest after the attack on Hewlett. He was then suspended from the university and later pleaded guilty to attempted rape and forcible sexual abuse, admitting that he sexually assaulted two women. He was sentenced to a year in jail.

As part of the settlement of Hewlett's suit, the university will appoint a full-time coordinator to oversee fraternity and sorority activities. That person will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the law, doing routine checks of members and houses, and conducting mandatory annual sexual assault prevention training for all students in the Greek system. 

[READ THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT]

Each house also must submit a review every semester identifying any reports or allegations of misconduct or alcohol-related infractions. And each chapter will be subject to random inspections.

“I don’t think the university had a full understanding of the seriousness of the issues happening at the fraternity houses due to no one regulating it,” Hewlett says. “I feel really happy and hopeful with the changes that the university has agreed to make.”

Hewlett and Utah State President Noelle Cockett have co-authored an op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune that outlines the new policies that the university must put in place over the next year as part of the agreement.

"We both recognize that the voices of survivors are important in moving forward," the column states. "Victoria will be working with the university on its efforts to improve its prevention of and response to sexual misconduct. This will include serving on an advisory committee comprised of survivors, experts in the field, and other advocates to provide feedback and expertise to USU."

Hewlett says she will continue to pursue her legal claims against the national Sigma Chi fraternity and its Utah State house, which have denied wrongdoing.



 

 

Hide comments

Comments

  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Publish