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L.A. Now Live: Occidental College settles sexual assault case

September 18, 2013
  • Attorney Gloria Allred, seated, left, with Occidental College professor Caroline Heldman and Occidental students and others at an April news conference when they announced the filing of a complaint against Occidental over the college's handling of sexual assault allegations.
Attorney Gloria Allred, seated, left, with Occidental College professor… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

Join us at 9 a.m., when we talk with Times reporters Jason Song and Jason Felch about Occidental College’s settlement with current and former students who accused the campus of mishandling allegations of sexual assault.

During talks last week, senior officials at the Eagle Rock liberal arts college agreed to pay the women an undisclosed sum on the condition that they not speak publicly about the college’s handling of their cases, according to three sources familiar with the agreement.

The women — all represented by Gloria Allred’s law firm — were among 37 who claimed that Occidental deliberately discouraged victims from reporting sexual assaults, misled students about their rights during campus investigations and retaliated against whistle-blowers who criticized the college’s handling of the cases.

The complaint, filed in April, has since been revised to include allegations from 13 additional people, including some faculty members, bringing the total number of complainants to 50. Federal investigators are expected to visit the college in coming weeks, the sources said. 

The federal Title IX complaint contains allegations from students and alumni who said: “Occidental College has fostered a hostile learning environment through decisions designed to bury the true numbers of sexual assaults on campus.” When victims went to administrators for help, the complaint said, they reported being “betrayed by campus administrators, and re-victimized.”

Over the summer, the college adopted a new interim sexual misconduct policy and recently hired an advocate for abuse survivors. The college has also created a 24-hour telephone hotline and expanded preventive education programs for all students.

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