Stockton University will pay $290K to settle lawsuits over sexual assaults on and off campus

The Galloway Township campus of Stockton University. (Anthony Smedile for WHYY)

The Galloway Township campus of Stockton University. (Anthony Smedile for WHYY)

Stockton University in South Jersey has settled nine lawsuits filed against it by women who said they were sexually assaulted on and off campus as students.

The women accused the public university of failing to protect them from sexual violence and neglecting to thoroughly investigate their claims, allegations that rattled the rural college when the first lawsuits were filed in the spring of 2018.

“They’re glad that Stockton was able to resolve the matter with them,” said Toms River attorney Robert Fuggi, who represented all nine women in the suit against the university, which is located just outside Atlantic City.

“Quite frankly, it was never about the money. It was more about trying to bring some change and trying to stop this from happening again,” he added.

Stockton will pay $290,000 to settle the claims, which will be split among the defendants, according to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, which handled the cases for the public university.

A Stockton spokeswoman referred comment to the Attorney General’s Office, which declined to comment on the settlement agreements.

The women filed the lawsuits anonymously to protect their privacy. Through Fuggi, they declined to be interviewed for this story.

Six of the lawsuits also named Pi Kappa Phi, an unrecognized off-campus fraternity where women said they were targeted by members of the “rogue” organization during house parties. Fuggi said the fraternity also settled the cases against it, but the North Carolina-based Greek organization did not respond to a request for comment.

In the lawsuits, the women reported being sexually assaulted and raped during parties at Pi Kappa Phi, a fraternity that lost its university recognition in 2010 but continued to operate out of a house near campus. Others said they were sexually assaulted inside campus dorms or by students at other locations.

The women also claimed that Stockton was slow to respond to their formal complaints of sexual assault and that the school did not fulfill its obligations under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in public education.

Zachary Madle, a former Stockton University student and Pi Kappa Phi member, was criminally charged with conduct outlined in one of the civil lawsuits. A judge sentenced him to five years probation last month for touching the genitals of a semi-conscious woman and posting videos of the incident on Snapchat, NJ.com reported. He was also named in another two of the civil suits.

Fuggi said he hoped the settlements would be a turning point for Stockton and offer the university an opportunity to improve its policies and culture.

“These things happen on all college campuses,” Fuggi said, “but there we so many incidents in this small, rural university that something was wrong there.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Help us get to 100% of our membership goal to support the reporters covering our region, the producers bringing you great local programs and the educators who teach all our children.