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University hires law firms to review sexual assault policies

Services to cost $500,000

The Board of Visitors and University officials recently hired two law firms to serve as consultants and to conduct an internal investigation and review of its handling of sexual assault cases.

Following a Nov. 19 article in Rolling Stone which detailed an alleged gang rape at a fraternity party in 2012 — the facts of which have been called into question and disputed in the intervening weeks — the University began an internal investigation into the claims.

The Board of Visitors hired counsel from O’Melveny & Myers, in addition to consulting from Pepper Hamilton LLP, University spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn said.

“At the Board’s request, the Office of the Attorney General announced the appointment of O’Melveny & Myers as special counsel to the Commonwealth and the Board of Visitors,” de Bruyn said in an email. “O’Melveny & Myers will conduct a full and independent review of the University’s response to the report of sexual assault and violence attributed to ‘Jackie’ in the Rolling Stone article.”

The services will cost $500,000 according to the contract between the University and O’Melveny and Myers.

“The firm will present a comprehensive report of its findings and recommendations based on its independent review,” de Bruyn said. “[It will offer] guidance regarding the University’s response to and handling of sexual and gender-based harassment and violence complaints.”

Brian Dolan, director of marketing for Pepper Hamilton, said the firm will review compliance with Title IX reports and assist in compliance reviews conducted by both the Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Education.

The payment for Pepper Hamilton will be based on hourly fees ranging from $550 to $660 per hour for lawyers, from $270 to $475 per hour for key personnel, and $40 per hour for supporting staff, according to the consulting agreement between Pepper Hamilton and the University.

Additionally, de Bruyn said the University is working to take more initiative to make Grounds safer for students, largely through the creation of an ad hoc committee.

“[The] University formed an Ad Hoc Group on University Climate and Culture to explore policies, practices and organizational structure, as well as the resources necessary to support the ultimate goal of providing an outstanding education while ensuring the safety and well-being of students,” de Bruyn said.

The ad hoc group will be composed of three working groups on prevention, response and culture, de Bruyn said, and the groups’ progress will be tracked in the short-, medium- and long-term. The group is expected to hold its third meeting next week.


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