August 6, 2015 / 8:38 PM / 4 years ago

University of Oregon settles rape lawsuit against basketball players

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - The University of Oregon has settled a lawsuit filed by a student who said she was raped by three players on the school’s basketball team, lawyers and university officials said on Thursday. 

The woman, still a student at the university, settled this week for $800,000 as well as four years’ paid tuition and a promise of changes in how the school assesses transfer students, a spokeswoman for the plaintiff’s attorney said.

Attorneys representing the woman, identified as “Jane Doe” in court documents, declined to comment further.

“Our university has been involved in litigation that has fueled mistrust and divided our community,” university President Michael Schill said in a statement on the agreement reached on Tuesday.

“In approving this settlement, it is my hope that we focus our attention and considerable expertise on making our campus one on which all students will feel secure in the knowledge that they will be free from sexual violence,” Schill said.

The woman filed the lawsuit in January in U.S. federal court in Eugene, where the university is located.

“I am so glad to have this case behind me today and to be able to focus on my studies,” the woman who settled the case said in a statement provided by her attorney.

Damyean Dotson, Dominic Artis and Brandon Austin were suspended amid a police investigation of accusations that they sexually assaulted a female student on March 8, 2014, at an off-campus party.

The students she accused of rape were dropped from the team in May 2014 and suspended from the school a month later, but were not criminally charged, the woman’s attorney said.

The suit named University of Oregon basketball coach Dana Altman as a co-defendant. His name was dropped from the lawsuit.

Initially, the suit said Altman and other staff at Oregon’s flagship public university recruited Austin despite knowing he previously had been suspended from Providence College in Rhode Island for allegations of sexual misconduct in 2013.

Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner ultimately decided against filing charges against the players, citing a lack of evidence.

Attorneys for the players could not be reached for comment but denied the allegations in a written statement last year. 

University officials said the settlement does not mean the school admits to any wrongdoing. 

As part of the settlement, the Oregonian newspaper reported the university agreed to ask potential transfer students about any previous disciplinary actions against them at other educational institutions, and grant university officials the right to review any past incidents.

“I do not believe any of our coaches, administrators, or other university personnel acted wrongfully, nor do I believe that any one of them failed to live up to the high moral standards that we value and that they embody in their work every day,” Schill said. 

The university is in the process of hiring new staff and implementing new policies and programs aimed at preventing sexual assault and harassment on campus, he added.

Reporting by Shelby Sebens in Portland, Oregon; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Eric Walsh

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