Content warning: sexual violence
When sexual misconduct becomes normalized, inappropriate behaviors that constitute harassment are not reported. This begets a cycle of degenerate working environments across an institution meant to enlighten society, not shroud itself in secrecy and scandal.
In the past few months, the University of California has taken great strides to improve misconduct policy, including the creation of a systemwide Title IX coordinator position and the implementation of mandatory trainings for students and faculty.
But by allowing one-third of the employees found in violation of policy to remain employed — and on campus, often in close proximity to people they have allegedly harassed and assaulted — the university has been complicit in a hostile working and learning environment systemwide.
The employees allowed to stay on include tenured faculty. While tenure promotes job security, unfortunately, it is also the root of a systemic issue wherein faculty stay in positions of power despite continually abusing it. The university would do well to revisit and amend its tenure policy.
In cases where a policy violator returns to campus after receiving a slap on the wrist, such as a leave of absence, the university effectively demonstrates its sympathy with the respondent above the complainant. Yet the complainant had likely chosen to navigate the confusing and stressful reporting system to avoid further contact with the violator.
The harsh reality is that the number of employees who have violated UC sexual misconduct policy likely exceeds the number that documents reveal. But because the system for reporting violations is so complicated and not guaranteed to lead to serious punitive measures, survivors are disincentivized from speaking out.
The university was quick to point out that the majority of investigations uncovered Tuesday occurred under older UC sexual misconduct policy. The point is moot, however, when those found guilty are still scattered throughout the system. To further complicate matters, some employees found in violation of policy still firmly believe they did nothing wrong. Improvements to policy should accompany a legacy of impact from vigorous censure and trainings on proper conduct.
Even before various news outlets reported on the violations, the university was aware of them and chose to conceal them from many faculty, staff and students, thus putting them at risk when respondents remained employed. At this point, whatever explanation the university offers for this perversion of justice will be meaningless in lieu of substantial preventative measures.
The narrative that surrounds cases of sexual assault and harassment often follows the people who perpetrate it, not the victims. The university must remember that for each shameful case, real people were harmed, and they are more than a black redaction bar.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.