Spike expected in sex misconduct complaints after increased campus resources, visibility

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Interim lead of the campus’s response to sexual violence Carla Hesse said she anticipates the number of sexual misconduct complaints to the campus Title IX office to jump from 196 in the 2014-15 academic year to more than 300 this year.

In an interview with The Daily Californian on Wednesday, Hesse — who is also the executive dean of the College of Letters and Science — said she believes that the expected rise in complaints is the result of an increase in reporting of violations, in part facilitated by the 2014 introduction of Confidential Care Advocates to the campus. The office, now known as the PATH to Care Center, allows for survivors of sexual misconduct to receive confidential care without filing formal complaints.

“The really big improvements with respect to improving the safety and well-being of our community will come as a result of bigger investments in prevention and in changing campus climate and with a special focus on the faculty,” Hesse said.

Over the past two years, multiple high-profile violations of UC sexual harassment and sexual assault policy by prominent faculty have brought attention to the issue. Former vice chancellor for research Graham Fleming, former astronomy professor Geoffrey Marcy and former Berkeley Law dean Sujit Choudhry all resigned after news of their violations became public. Both former executive vice chancellor and provost Claude Steele and Chancellor Nicholas Dirks have since announced their resignations.

In March, Dirks announced reforms to the handling of these complaints, including $2.5 million to address the response to sexual harassment and sexual violence, part of which will go to the PATH to Care Center.

Hesse said the reporting increase is “a problem you want to have” but said she hopes to see an overall decline in violence and harassment. Similarly, ASUC Student Advocate Selina Lao said the additional complaints would likely result from an increase in accessibility to reporting options, rather than an increase in sexual violence.

“People are able to talk to them candidly and have a central place to go to for resources,” Lao said.

Over the past six years, the number of Title IX complaints have grown rapidly. In 2010, the campus Title IX office saw only 34 complaints, according to Hesse. Both Lao and Hesse praised the work that brought the number up but said the next step was a campuswide culture change to reduce sexual misconduct.

“It’s rooted in education — not only educational discussion and educational materials,” Lao said. “It’s about sparking a conversation in your peer groups.”

Austin Weinstein is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @aweinstein5.