Revisions to campus’s handling of sex misconduct welcomed by staff, students

Aditi Raghunath/Staff

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Recent revisions to UC Berkeley’s response to sexual harassment and sexual assault were welcomed by campus officials and student leaders, many of whom felt the changes were long overdue.

The revisions include an agreement to coordinate efforts between the campus and the UC Office of the President, which will result in greater oversight by UCOP — a move welcomed by campus leaders, including Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

In accordance with the agreement, Dirks will meet monthly with UC President Janet Napolitano and regularly submit written reports on the campus’s progress in combating sexual misconduct, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Additionally, Jody Shipper, UC director for issues of sexual misconduct, will work with the campus to help coordinate its response, according to UC spokesperson Rebecca Trounson.

The changes come amid backlash surrounding UC Berkeley’s handling of a wave of sexual misconduct cases, such as those of former UC Berkeley School of Law dean Sujit Choudhry and former astronomy professor Geoff Marcy. Despite recognizing the need for such changes, student leaders have expressed a cautious optimism.

“I think added oversight from UC could be positive because Berkeley admin has made clear they cannot respond adequately on their own,” said UC Berkeley senior Meghan Warner, a member of the UC Task Force on Sexual Violence and Sexual Assault.

In the past, Warner noted, the campus has often responded to issues of sexual misconduct only after receiving bad press. When cases do not receive publicity, however, little serious action has been taken, she said.

Warner and ASUC Student Advocate Leah Romm were hopeful, however, that these revisions will have a more lasting effect now that the process includes greater oversight.

Both mentioned the campus’s intent to allocate greater resources to campus institutions such as the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination and the Confidential Care Advocate’s Office as another positive aspect of the changes.

Romm added that among the campus community, there was “a sense of disappointment that it took this long to respond to this seriously, primarily because we’ve known this is an issue for many, many years now.”

According to Gilmore, the new initiatives focus on developing appropriate sanctions for violators of UC policies on sexual misconduct and the effective investigation and prevention of such cases.

Contact Lucas Lochner-Bravo at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @llochner_dc.