Utah Valley University settles lawsuit with former Title IX director who says she was fired after looking into male administrators

(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) Students at Utah Valley University head towards the Sorensen Student Center in this 2016 file photo.

Utah Valley University has settled a whistleblower lawsuit filed earlier this year by the school’s former Title IX director, who had said her firing was in retaliation for voicing concerns about the university’s response to allegations of discrimination and harassment.

Melissa Frost claimed her firing came shortly after she began looking into allegations that three women were harassed and discriminated against by “white males” in UVU’s upper management, according to the suit filed earlier this year.

She also alleged that UVU police gave less attention to sexual assault allegations by gay men; that school personnel prolonged a disciplinary case against a student athlete; and that campus officials were slow to refer students to her understaffed Title IX office.

The university denied the allegations in court, and filed counterclaims alleging Frost secretly recorded meetings that were supposed to be private and kept work product that was supposed to be the university’s property.

In a joint statement posted on UVU’s website Monday, school officials and Frost said they have reached a settlement and will ask a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

“While each side denies any wrongdoing, Ms. Frost and UVU have agreed to set aside their claims and focus on their mutual interest in ensuring equality and fairness for everyone in the university community,” the statement reads.

It’s not clear whether Frost received any sort of payout in the settlement. University officials have refused to disclose the information, and a records request is pending.

In her lawsuit, Frost sought reinstatement and lost wages, or a minimum of $100,000 in damages.

Frost said in her lawsuit that supervisors had consistently given her positive performance ratings. But after she began raising concerns about a lack of staffing, resources and support for the Title IX office, Frost received a “memo of no confidence” in April 2017 followed by a notice of termination that June. She filed a complaint of retaliation, prompting a review by an outside investigator.

Last November, Frost’s employment at UVU was formally terminated after an extended leave.

University officials have said Frost was fired “for cause,” but have declined to offer any other details.

In 2017, UVU was one of five Utah campuses under federal investigation for potential Title IX violations by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The investigations were triggered by students who said their allegations of sexual assault and harassment were ignored, mishandled or stalled by administrators.

Investigations involving UVU, Brigham Young University and the University of Utah are still pending. Utah State University is currently being investigated by the Department of Justice — a federal review that is generally more serious than investigations by education officials.