Campus announces $2.5 million investment to improve response to sex harassment, violence

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Update 5/3/16: This article has been updated to reflect interviews with Carla Hesse, Leah Romm and Stephanie Nicole Garcia.

UC Berkeley intends to invest $2.5 million into improving its response to sexual harassment and sexual violence on campus, as faculty and students reel from a string of high-profile sexual harassment scandals that has captured national attention and generated widespread criticism.

On Monday, the campus announced that it plans to add seven new positions to the Office of Student Conduct and the campus human resources department to expand support for managing complaints over potential policy violations, according to a campus press release.

“This investment is overdue,” said Carla Hesse, the interim campus lead for sexual violence and sexual harassment, in the announcement.

The announcement also outlined plans to add four new positions to the CARE advocacy unit and University Health Services to “immediately begin expanding prevention, training programs and support services for survivors.”

According to Hesse, the funding will go into three main areasstrengthening campus offices that investigate and adjudicate on student conduct cases, increasing education and training to prevent sexual misconduct and adding resources to CARE to provide psychological support and counseling to victims.

“The safety and wellbeing of our students and staff have to be our highest priority,” Hesse said in an interview. “We haven’t been able to respond to these things as effectively as we would hope to be able to expect of ourselves.”

In the coming few weeks, the campus will be providing in-person training for all senior academic and administrative staff. The campus will also launch new awareness and training programs for all students, staff and faculty in the fall.

A report in April showed that 19 campus employees were found to have violated UC sexual misconduct policy since 2011. In March, 28 feminist UC Berkeley faculty members signed a statement calling on the administration to bring sweeping reform to harassment policy on a systemic level.

“This (investment) has been a really, really long time coming,” said outgoing ASUC Student Advocate Leah Romm. “It’s disappointing to see this only happens when the university has had enough bad publicity.”

Campus sophomore Stephanie Nicole Garcia, however, expressed concerns that the investment would not properly prevent sexual harassment on campus, adding that students should take direct action in publicly naming rapists, as Garcia did when she took part in several BAMN demonstrations against her alleged rapist.

“Investing $2.5 million is not fighting rape and sexual assault,” Garcia said. “The way to do that is to actually hold people accountable and remove them from campus when they are found responsible.”

The Monday announcement also references the campus’s commitment to working with the Chancellor’s Committee on Sexual Harassment, Violence and Assault, led by Hesse and interim Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Carol Christ.

The committee was announced in April by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to recommend improvements to all campus services and policies related to sexual misconduct.

According to Hesse, the membership of the committee has now been finalized and will include members of the faculty, staff, ASUC and Graduate Assembly.

Haruka Senju is an assistant news editor. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @haruka_senju