U of Minnesota settled student’s Cuba rape lawsuit for $137K
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The University of Minnesota agreed to pay $137,500 to an undergraduate student who said she was raped in Cuba in 2014 by an interpreter hired by the local affiliate of a study-abroad program.
The university recently released the settlement agreement in response to a records request by the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The university admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, which was reached last year.
The student, Natalie Carlson, said she was raped by a local interpreter who offered to help her with research and that her program’s chaperone — a lecturer who no longer works for the university — failed to properly supervise the students.
Carlson declined to comment to the Pioneer Press beyond what she wrote in her lawsuit. The Associated Press typically does not name alleged victims of sexual assault, but Carlson agreed to be named for the newspaper’s report and her attorney, Natalie Feidt, permitted the AP to also name Carlson.
According to the lawsuit filed last year in Hennepin County court, Carlson joined a group traveling to Puerto Rico and Cuba in the summer of 2014 through the Student Project for Amity among Nations (SPAN), a study-abroad program offered to college students, including the University of Minnesota.
Carlson planned to research government housing in Cuba as part of her senior thesis and SPAN’s Cuba affiliate hired a local man who offered to help Carlson find residents to interview.
Carlson said she planned to interview the man about his living conditions, but he raped her. She said she went to police to report the assault but declined to press charges because she was told she would have to stay in Cuba until the case was resolved.
In her lawsuit, Carlson contends that the university lecturer who was supervising the students allegedly told her she should have known better than to go with the man. She also said the study-abroad program fired the interpreter for what it deemed “consensual” sex with a student.
Carlson said back in Minneapolis, she complained to the university about the assault and the chaperone’s response. In April 2015, the university declined to discipline the chaperone, Carlson said. Despite being able to graduate in the spring of 2015, Carlson said she missed classes and suffered from medical problems because of the alleged assault. Carlson has since graduated from the university, her attorney told the AP.
The chaperone did not respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment. Her employment with the university ended in April 2016, and she now works for a study-abroad program not affiliated with the University of Minnesota.
Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com