UC finalizes changes to sexual harassment and sexual violence policy

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The UC system recently finalized changes to its sexual violence and sexual harassment, or SVSH, adjudication procedures, including the right to hearings, as first reported by the Daily Bruin.

The policy, which was officially released July 31, was a response to a state appellate court decision from last year that ruled that respondents are entitled to certain rights when accused of sexual misconduct in higher education environments. It replaces an interim policy that went into effect in March.

According to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore, sexual misconduct cases on campus opened after July 31 and investigations not finished by July 31 will comply with the new procedures.

“Through a process that began in spring 2018, the Systemwide Title IX Office sought and received significant input on UC’s 2016 SVSH policy from students, faculty, and staff from across the system,” said Elisa Smith, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, in an email. “We are confident these changes will provide a fair process, while keeping the well-being of parties at the forefront.”

Changes to the policy include more comprehensive explanations and outlines of investigation procedures, edited definitions of prohibited conduct and a 30-day extension on the deadline to initiate the formal investigation process, in addition to a provision for a Title IX officer to initiate investigations when one party is unidentifiable, according to Smith. 

The policy has been met with mixed opinions, although the UC has not received a lot of formal feedback yet due to the summer session, according to Smith. Campus ASUC student advocate Nava Bearson said in an email that the policy concerned her because she thought it could prevent complainants from coming forward.

“There are many unanswered questions about whether Title IX and conduct offices across the UC system have the capacity to handle an increased number of hearings in a timely manner,” Bearson said in the email. “The Student Advocate’s Office is committed to monitoring the impact of these new policies and any additional changes mandated by the federal government and advocating for trauma-informed, equitable, and timely resolution to SVSH cases.”

Attorney Mark Hathaway and others, however, see the new change as increasing due process and the justice of the system. Hathaway is currently suing the UC system in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of those accused and adjudicated for sexual misconduct on the prior policy.

UCOP maintains that the policy is fair and protects complainants.

“The University of California is committed to fostering a culture of safety, respect and accountability, and to processes for investigating and resolving allegations of sexual violence and sexual harassment (SVSH) that treat parties with respect and compassion,” Smith said in an email.

 

Katherine Finman is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.