Campus announces reforms to handling of sexual harassment, sexual assault

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On Thursday, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced a series of plans to reform the handling of sexual harassment and sexual assault at UC Berkeley.

“We are committed to ensuring that Berkeley is a welcoming, safe, respectful, and inclusive community for every one of our students, staff, faculty, and visitors,” Dirks said in the statement, emailed to all campus students and employees.

After the resignation of former UC Berkeley School of Law dean Sujit Choudhry and the termination of assistant men’s basketball coach Yann Hufnagel — both for sexual harassment the campus’s handling of sexual harassment cases has come into question.

In response to criticism of campus processing of harassment claims, Dirks announced that the Office for Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment will be given additional resources in order to reduce the time taken to investigate cases of sexual harassment and violence.

Associate vice chancellor for communications and public affairs Claire Holmes said the number of OPHD investigators would be doubled from three to six.

While specific numbers were not available, Holmes said the overall appropriation would consist of millions of dollars over the next few years.

In addition to allocating more funding to various prevention and care bodies on campus, the Confidential CARE Advocacy and Prevention Program will develop a sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention plan. The prevention initiatives could begin to be implemented as early as this summer.

“This isn’t a silver bullet,” Holmes said. “It’s about the campus pulling together and changing the culture.”

Taking inspiration from UC President Janet Napolitano’s systemwide reforms, the chancellor announced his intent to create a review board to ensure that sanctions are handled in a “firm and consistent manner, regardless of the rank or position of either the complainant or respondent.”

Dirks also announced his intent to name a senior campus leader to coordinate the campus’s sexual harassment and assault prevention efforts, as well as a task force to assess and report on the efforts.

On Sunday, the chancellor announced that he had named campus history professor and executive dean of the College of Letters and Science Carla Hesse as the interim leader of the campus’s efforts to improve its handling of sexual harassment and assault cases.

Dirks will also periodically submit written reports to Napolitano’s office on the campus’s progress in combating sexual assault and harassment, according to the LA Times. He will also be meeting with her on a monthly basis beginning April 1.

“I am happy that Chancellor Dirks agrees that these issues demand concentrated, effective measures,” Napolitano said in a statement to the LA Times.

These reforms come after the UC Office of the President released a revised sexual violence and sexual harassment policy and implemented systemwide online sexual harassment courses for all university employees.

ASUC Student Advocate Leah Romm said that while progress has been made over the last few years, recent cases show that there has not been enough.

“I’ve been working on this for the last two to three years, in that span of time, we’ve gone from very little resources and very little education to something that’s a lot better,” Romm said. “Policies have been changing — we have seen an improvement, but it’s not been enough.”

While Romm supported the measures, she said she was disappointed that it took multiple cases and public outcry for the reforms to come.

“All of a sudden they’re getting a lot of flak and now they’re expediting this,” Romm said. “The campus needs to be less reactive and more proactive.”

Senior staff writer Ivana Saric contributed to this report.

Austin Weinstein covers academics and administration. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @aweinstein5.

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  • ShadrachSmith

    The Feminist Star Chamber wheels over Berkeley like Smaug, cranky and hungry. The Star Chamber’s flight is powered by your submission. Some of you even like it.

  • czarnajama

    So expanding the bureaucracy is the solution?

    • Nunya Beeswax

      Much heat, little light. The appearance of “doing something” when in actuality it is unlikely anything will change. You don’t change predatory behavior by forcing people to take a 45-minute computerized “course” on sexual harassment and assault.