Few campuses have seen more controversy over sexual assault than Florida State — largely because of a single high-profile case. In December 2012, a female student reported being sexually assaulted by an individual whom she later identified as Jameis Winston, the university's star quarterback at the time. The New York Times reported that subsequent investigations by the police and the university were virtually nonexistent. The university disputed that characterization. The Times later reported that records showed the Tallahassee police department routinely turned a blind eye to alleged crimes committed by Florida State football players.
In 2014, the university held a hearing to investigate the allegations against Mr. Winston, with a former Florida Supreme Court judge finding him not responsible for any violations of the student code.
The accuser in the case filed a federal lawsuit against the university, claiming it violated her rights under Title IX. Documents released as part of that suit showed that a university administrator testified that dozens of Florida State football players had been accused of sexual assault in nine years, and that as far as she could remember, only one had been found responsible by the university, The Times reported. In a statement to The Times, the university said it had "no way to confirm or deny [the official's] claims, given that her communications with such victims are confidential."
Florida State was one of the initial 55 colleges under investigation in this wave of federal enforcement as announced by the Education Department in May 2014.
The institution has affirmed its commitment to victims of sexual assault, collected resources online, increased bystander-intervention training, and hired a full-time Title IX officer. The university has consistently pushed back against portrayals of it as indifferent to the issue of sexual assault. In November 2015, the university's president, John E. Thrasher, released a statement protesting the university's treatment in the controversial documentary, "The Hunting Ground," which focused heavily on Mr. Winston's case.
In January 2016, the university agreed to pay $950,000 to settle the lawsuit filed by Mr. Winston's accuser. USA Today reported that the university also agreed to make a five-year commitment to prevention and training programs. The settlement did not require the accuser to withdraw the complaint she had filed with the Education Department, her lawyer told the newspaper. The university said in a written statement that it had settled the case mainly to avoid the high cost of protracted litigation, even though it was confident it would have prevailed. Mr. Thrasher said that Florida State remained committed to keeping its campus safe for all students, and pointed to a series of steps the administration had taken to strengthen its response to reports of sexual assaults.
A previous version of the "campus context" section mistakenly stated that the accuser identified two other players as assailants, along with Mr. Winston. It also stated the accuser identified the quarterback in December 2012, when she named him only later. The entry has also been updated with the university's response to The New York Times's article about accusations against football players. The entry has also been clarified to state that students have protested rape culture on college campuses, not specifically the university's handling of sexual assaults.
Tallahassee, Fla. -- Early on the morning of Dec. 7, 2012, a freshman at Florida State University reported that she had been raped by a stranger somewhere off campus after a night of drinking at a popular Tallahassee bar called Potbelly's.