In a recent op-ed to the Daily Californian, Dean Carla Hesse suggests that UC Berkeley’s sexual harassment crisis may be overcome by recovering “our moral equilibrium” between freedom and respect. Unfortunately, by reducing responsibility to individual enlightenment, Hesse’s strategy of redress remains wedded to the same feeble outlook that has exacerbated the problem.
The gross mishandling of sexual harassment cases is not an unfortunate side-effect of our zealous love for freedom. It will not be fixed by vague aphorisms involving mutual respect. Rather, it is a direct consequence of systemic failures in procedure, policy and leadership. As recent reports demonstrate, sexual harassment complaints are met with lengthy, discouraging and apathetic responses by campus administration, who seem less interested in removing offenders than protecting the careers of eminent faculty, as well as its image in the eyes of parents and donors.
Hesse gives no indication that the administration is concerned with or even aware of these failings. Instead, the “immediate actions” she promises are centered once again on employee compliance, bureaucratic expansion, and impotent committees. No amount of online trainings or consciousness-raising campaigns will correct the administration’s prioritization of prestige over students’ and employees’ civil rights. Indeed, to suggest otherwise constitutes a lack of respect.