UC Berkeley violated Title IX. No one is surprised

CAMPUS ISSUES: The findings of a four-year federal investigation prove that UC Berkeley must improve its handling of sex misconduct cases

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Alexander Hong/Staff

A recent federal investigation found that UC Berkeley’s handling of sexual misconduct violated Title IX — a conclusion that, of course, comes as little surprise to the countless survivors who have repeatedly spoken out against UC Berkeley.

Despite several attempts to improve its policies — including major campus revisions in 2014 and again in 2016 — UC Berkeley remained out of compliance, according to the report. Now, the campus has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, or OCR, to address outstanding concerns outlined in the investigation.

The four-year investigation’s findings are deeply validating: Dozens of campus community members have been saying for years that UC Berkeley needs to make changes to equitably support survivors of sexual violence. Why did it take the federal government stepping in to get people to listen?

Many students had serious concerns that the campus often did not notify both the complainant and respondent of sexual misconduct claims when cases were closed or resolved. Moreover, the campus Title IX office’s process was too slow for a college setting where students come and go every few years. In some cases, concluding an investigation and the subsequent disciplinary action could take up to three years, investigators found.

It is unacceptable that there is even the possibility of someone filing a report as a sophomore and not seeing its resolution before they graduate. UC Berkeley’s Title IX office is understaffed, but this is not an excuse. Until the campus prioritizes boosting resources to the Title IX office — and the PATH to Care Center, which offers additional advocacy and support for survivors — UC Berkeley will never be able to work through these complaints promptly.

OCR’s report outlines many policy recommendations to improve UC Berkeley’s compliance with Title IX, such as increasing sexual harassment and violence training for graduate students, faculty and staff. It would behoove the campus to follow through on every single one of these suggestions.

The report also roasted campus for inconsistently resolving cases with alternative, often lighter, punishments (this was a problem, for example, in the case of Geoffrey Marcy, who was disciplined outside of the normal process) without informing survivors.

But policy changes are not enough — these policies only matter if there is also a cultural shift among faculty and staff. Tyann Sorrell, who accused former UC Berkeley School of Law dean Sujit Choudhry of sexually harassing her while she worked as his executive assistant, alleged that some of her superiors knew about her harassment but did not report it. This infuriating complacent attitude proves that the campus needs to ensure that all its employees will speak out against sexual misconduct.

The agreement includes a two-year monitoring period, during which the campus will have to regularly report to OCR on how policies have changed to comply with Title IX.

All eyes are on you, UC Berkeley. And the community deserves to see change.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.