UNA student wants a public apology for how officials responded to Title IX allegations

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FLORENCE, Ala. - The judge in the Title IX lawsuit against the University of North Alabama has ordered the plaintiff to respond to UNA's motion to dismiss by November 1.

When news of the suit broke back in August, the university put out an aggressive statement denying the allegations that it covered up the sexual assault of a student by her professor. The statement prompted a peaceful protest on campus. The organizer of that protest, Ashley Massey, even had a sit down meeting with UNA President Kenneth Kitts.

A few days after that meeting Kitts sent Massey a letter thanking her. Kitts wrote, "I recognize our initial response to the lawsuit was too aggressive and failed to meet that standard. For that, I apologize to you and anyone who found the tone of the message to be offensive."

"I followed up with him because what I had stressed in the meeting is that an apology is great, but what we really wanted was a public apology," said Massey.

Massey received another letter from Kitts on October 5. In part, he wrote "Please feel free to share my letter of September 7th with others and refer them to my annual address from August 22nd, which is posted on my website. Both convey my apology regarding the initial statement regarding the Jane Doe lawsuit."

"What we really asked for was a public apology. So everyone could see it and not just a few, and I don't think that I should be the official vehicle for that public apology to be delivered. I think it should come from a UNA source and not a student," said Massey.

WHNT News 19 found Kitts' annual address online. It mentions the lawsuit, and it's first public response to the allegations.

"Our initial statement represented a strong response to the allegations and the media coverage. Some liked the directness of that message, while others expressed concerns that the language used was harsh and misdirected. To anyone who may have been offended by that language, I apologize."

Massey claims that Kitts only addressed faculty during his address. She said many students have approached her saying they don't feel comfortable reporting sexual assault at UNA because of its initial statement. However, she says a public apology could change their mindset."

UNA officials tell WHNT News 19 that President Kitts' apology has been public and available since September 5. Officials also note that the annual address on August 22 was open to the public.