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UConn's Problems Go From Bad to Herbst

Chion Wolf

It's never a good thing when civil rights litigator Gloria Allred shows up in your town for the second time in two weeks to file her second legal action against you. It's even worse when Allred says she's using your response to the first legal action as part of the basis of the second one. 

Allred was in Hartford Friday for a press conference with four female plaintiffs -- three UConn students and one alumna -- to announce the filing of a private lawsuit against the university.

This time the plaintiffs are alleging both discrimination and retaliation.  Allred said the charge of retaliation would encompass the recent remarks of UConn President Susan Herbst in response to Allred's Title IX complaint, issued last week on behalf of seven current and former students.

In prepared remarks to the UConn Board of Trustees, Herbst called the Title IX allegations -- that the university and its police force have been lax and indifferent about complaints of rape and harassment on campus -- "astonishingly misguided and demonstrably untrue." Herbst said she "cannot speak to the motivations of people who have suggested this." She accused the complainants of "name-calling" against the UConn police. 

On Friday outside Hartford's federal court building, after Allred spoke, each of the young female complainants spoke, each of them focusing on their perception that Herbst's words -- especially the questioning of their motives -- had been offensive and retaliatory. Allred said Herbst's statement is part of the new lawsuit.

You don't see this very often once legal actions are being filed. Usually the principals get careful and quiet. Herbst is unusual in issuing a stinging rebuke that seems destined to become a part of the second case. "Astonishingly misguided and demonstrably untrue" -- a very good title for a Jonathan Safran Foer sequel -- will be part of this story for a long time to come. 

Colin McEnroe is a radio host, newspaper columnist, magazine writer, author, playwright, lecturer, moderator, college instructor and occasional singer.
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