UC Berkeley’s My Voice survey is a step in the right direction, but campus administration has miles to go before it can say it has adequately addressed sexual violence and harassment. And this undertaking must involve more than vague promises to “encourage cultural change” or “engage men.”
The survey results confirmed many of the problems UC Berkeley students and staff have been communicating for years. Individuals belonging to marginalized groups are disproportionately impacted by sexual violence and harassment on campus. Survivors often do not report violence they’ve experienced. And when asked if they thought UC Berkeley would take a report seriously, less than 40 percent of surveyed campus undergraduates said it was “very likely.”
While these realities are appalling and disappointing, they are far from surprising. Now that UC Berkeley has the data-based proof it needs, it’s the campus’s turn to provide some responses.
The campus released a list of lofty, amorphous plans along with the survey results, including campaigns to improve behavior and attitudes, distributing trauma-informed materials and working collaboratively with marginalized communities. But there was no mention of how campus officials plan on holding themselves accountable to specific, concrete goals or how they intend to measure the impact these campaigns will have.
The current list of proposed actions is far from the tangible, systemic change this campus should be undertaking. And if no one is watching out for these proposed actions, UC Berkeley administrators could very well get away with not changing anything at all.
What the UC Berkeley community needs is an expedited Title IX process. Survivors who report their harassers or abusers need guaranteed protections — especially if their harassers or abusers are in positions of power. Students deserve a system that actively prevents those accused of sexual misconduct from potentially harming others, even as the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination completes its sluggish investigations. Why does this list propose no structural changes to a clearly flawed system?
The survey is undoubtedly a very important first step toward combating sexual misconduct at UC Berkeley. It’s a good beginning. But that’s all it is. The data from this report show that UC Berkeley, like universities across the nation, continues to encounter serious problems with sexual violence.
At a time when the national spotlight is on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who is facing numerous accusations of sexual assault that allegedly occurred in high school and college, this survey affirms that sexual violence and harassment on college campuses cannot and should not be denied or normalized.
UC Berkeley needs to commit to rebuilding a system that has shown time and time again just how broken it is.