Assembly members and campus leaders discuss campus’s response to sexual assault and harassment

Rachael Garner/Staff

Related Posts

Elected officials, student leaders and community members participated in a roundtable discussion Wednesday regarding the campus’s response to sexual assault and harassment.

In particular, the panelists discussed the effectiveness of education programs and examined the campus’s policies on responding to sexual harassment and assault.

The panel’s discussion comes amid criticisms nationwide regarding universities’ response to sexual assault. A state audit in June found that some UC Berkeley faculty and staff are not trained to properly respond to and report sexual assault and harassment cases.

Assemblymember Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, questioned campus administrators on the effectiveness of education and prevention programs, the handling of sexual assault cases and resources provided to students.

“The university can and should do more to prevent harassment,” Williams said at the panel. He also questioned the accountability of the process by which the campus disciplines students found guilty of committing acts of sexual assault or harassment.

Administrators responded by emphasizing newly initiated programs and amended sexual assault policies.

Claudia Covello, executive director of University Health Services, discussed new campus programs such as Bear Pact, an orientation workshop for freshmen and transfer students. Another online training program, Haven, was introduced to educate incoming students on sexual assault and the meaning of consent.

Students who do not participate in one of the three offered programs —Bear Pact, Haven or EmpowerU — will face registration blocks.

“Changing the culture is going to take all of us,” Covello said.

Jackson Allison, president of the interfraternity council, added that the campus Greek system has initiated a new member training that includes discussions of the definition of consent and sexual assault.

The campus has also created a confidential survivor advocate position that will serve as a contact point for survivors when the position is filled. ASUC Student Advocate Rishi Ahuja said a physical space on campus to provide resources, more than one confidential survivor advocate and student feedback would be the ideal model of response.

Meghan Warner, a UC Berkeley junior and chair of the ASUC Sexual Assault Commission, said education programs should clearly communicate sanctions that students will receive for committing acts of sexual assault or harassment.

“Ideally, students would get repeated exposure on consent,” Warner said.

Warner said the ASUC Sexual Assault Commission has developed a sexual assault policy director position that will work with campus officials and students to develop and refine programs.

Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said the intention of the discussion was to listen to campus and student voices on how the campus has been responding to sexual assault and harassment.

“We are continually looking at the playing field of education, prevention and response and continuing to evaluate where work needs to be done,” Gilmore said.

Contact Sierra Stalcup at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @SierraStalcup.