Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek discussed the Title IX lawsuit currently facing his university in a mass email sent out Monday afternoon.
Cheek emphasized that there is not a culture of sexual assault and domestic abuse in Knoxville, Tenn. — as is alleged by multiple plaintiffs in the lawsuit — and reassured students of their safety.
“While I cannot specifically address the allegations in the lawsuit, I can say that any assertion that we do not take sexual assault seriously enough is simply not true,” Cheek wrote in the statement, which was screencapped on Twitter by Rivals.com’s John Brice.
Cheek continued by mentioning the variety of on-campus programs and measures, introduced as early as 2011, geared toward preventing sexual assault, handling cases and counseling victims. These include special training given to campus police officers, a sexual assault response team and the addition of three positions to the division of student life meant to help prevent and address sexual assault (an investigator, a case manager and a health coordinator).
Cheek argued these steps show the university does not enable sexual assault.
“To claim that we have allowed a culture to exist contrary to our institutional commitment to providing a safe environment for our students or that we do not support those who report sexual assault is just false,” he wrote.
Tennessee has been heavily scrutinized in recent weeks in light of accusations that have surfaced both in the federal lawsuit and in follow-up reports by the media. Legendary Vols quarterback Peyton Manning, who was claimed to have sexually harassed former trainer Jamie Naughright, is also cited in the suit.
“I’d much rather spend all of these words enumerating all of the great positive things that are happening every day on our campus, but since news is being made I thought it important to share this perspective with you and to reassure you that we are on the case and the continued safety of all of our students is of the utmost importance to us,” Cheek concluded.