Title IX moving forward under Chancellor Christ

Daniel Kim/Senior Staff

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As Carol Christ steps into her new role as chancellor July 1, she will inherit more than administrative authority — she will also be responsible for a campus that has been heavily criticized for its handling of sexual misconduct.

In recent years, the campus has garnered attention for several high-profile sexual harassment cases — including alleged violations of UC sexual misconduct policy by former campus astronomy professor Geoffrey Marcy and former UC Berkeley School of Law dean Sujit Choudhry.

In February 2017, a request by The Daily Californian prompted the release of more than 120 cases of sexual misconduct allegations against UC employees that occurred between 2013 and 2016.

The new campus administration seeks to build upon recently-established prevention and response efforts concerning sexual misconduct, Christ said in an emailed statement.

“Changing the culture is, in my view, at the core of what we as a campus community have to accomplish to make real gains in addressing sexual harassment and sexual violence,” Christ said in the statement. “But it will take a commitment from all of us … to create meaningful change in our community.’’

When Christ was last on campus, as an English professor from 1970-2002, she was also faculty assistant to the chancellor for the status of women and Title IX compliance coordinator in 1983 and 1984.

Title IX is a federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex at educational institutions that receive federal financial assistance — including UC Berkeley.

“Her work as a scholar, her history as a champion of Title IX and her commitment to the ideals of UC Berkeley align her with the priorities of today’s students,” said outgoing ASUC President Will Morrow in a March campus press release.

The UC system — and former chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ administration in particular — has faced criticism for the ostensibly lenient disciplinary measures taken against alleged violators of campus and university sexual misconduct policies.

In a March 2016 lawsuit filed against Choudhry and the UC Board of Regents, the UC system was sued for its alleged inadequate handling of sexual harassment complaints.

In recent years, UC President Janet Napolitano has made a number of systemwide reforms to modify the handling of sexual misconduct. Napolitano established a peer review committee to evaluate proposed sanctions for senior university leaders who have violated sexual harassment policies and hired the university’s first systemwide Title IX coordinator, Kathleen Salvaty.

On Thursday, the UC system introduced similar policies for faculty and staff, detailing new procedures for investigating cases of alleged sexual misconduct, according to a university press release.

The new framework follows a similar model created last year for students who allegedly violate university policy, and it will be implemented at all UC campuses by Sept. 1.

The change works in conjunction with the UC policy on sexual violence and sexual harassment and lays out the adjudication process for alleged violations — including an explicit time frame for formal investigations and increased transparency in communications with complainants.

The newly announced procedures were based on recommendations by committees created by Napolitano, Salvaty said.

“We’ll keep working … until sexual harassment or sexual violence is gone, not just in terms of prevention, but also how we can respond,” Salvaty said. “We think this policy is an important step in strengthening our response.”

While many changes regarding sexual misconduct policy have been addressed at the systemwide level, the campus has also initiated several actions of its own, said campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email.

According to Gilmore, these changes include the formation of a peer review committee for faculty cases and the creation of a faculty adviser position, whose duties include directly advising the chancellor on sexual violence and sexual harassment.

“These actions, along with critical prevention and education efforts, reflect the campus’s commitment to strengthen its efforts and help create and maintain a safe and supportive environment,” Gilmore said in an email.

Campus student advocate Jillian Free said in an email she would like to see more dialogue between the Christ administration and the campus.

Free added that she hopes there will be more accountability from faculty and administrators concerning sexual misconduct policies, as she believes standards for faculty are lower than those for students.

Free said in her email, however, that she believes the Christ administration will prioritize sexual violence and sexual harassment issues, but added that it is important to address the topic in a more “top down” manner.

“Faculty, administrators, and staff should be the first to set standards for proper conduct in our campus community,” Free said in her email.

Contact Valerie Hsieh at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @valhsieh.