Following widespread criticism of the university’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations, members of the Chancellor’s Senate/Administration Committee on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment hosted a listening session with students Friday to address campuswide concerns regarding policies and sanctions on sexual violence.
The meeting marked the first planned listening session held by the committee, which is composed of faculty, students and staff representatives. Chancellor Nicholas Dirks formed the committee in April after several high-profile sexual harassment and assault claims to help advise on potential campus policy changes.
“I don’t think an opportunity like this has come up before,” said Selina Lao, ASUC student advocate. “An opportunity to see change in the implementation and the policy that can make the university a better and safer environment.”
The formation of the committee was intended to connect the sentiments and concerns of the campus community in addressing issues of sexual violence and harassment. It has partnered with campus organizations such as the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, the Graduate Assembly and the Gender Equity Resource Center.
Approximately twenty students attended the session and the committee presented its recent work and heard recommendations from students on campus policies.
According to committee member Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, the committee has been examining documents related to sexual violence and sexual harassment on a university and systemwide level for the past five months.
“We’ve been interviewing all kinds of constituents and relevant parties with respect to prevention and preventive care … to get consensus about themes and about issues, and gaps that need to be addressed and how to take the system mandates and apply them specifically to (UC) Berkeley,” Mendoza-Denton said.
Students who attended the listening session gave recommendations on how sexual violence could be more efficiently addressed on campus. They recommended placing greater focus on bystander intervention, developing more efficient training on sexual violence for faculty and staff and providing accessible resources for survivors of sexual violence.
“I just see people in power abusing their power through sexual violence,” said Ana Mancia, a student as well as a founder and co-director of the Intimate Partner Violence Coalition on campus. “A lot of people are very outraged that the university has not done more about it.”
Valentin Tril Jr., policy director on sexual violence from the UC Office of the President, noted that sexual violence and harassment is an important issue that is endemic to college campuses.
“As policy director on this specific issue, one of my main goals is to turn around the culture on campus that emphasizes the academics and contributions of our students and faculty over the mental health and stability of these people,” Tril said.
The committee has planned another listening session in early October, and it will finalize a report of recommendations for the handling of sexual misconduct by mid-October for submission to the chancellor and the public.