‘Still much to do’: UC Berkeley community reacts to SVSH policy revisions

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Ganesh Pimpale/Staff
The UC Office of the President proposed revisions to the UC sexual violence and sexual harassment policy. Members of the UC Berkeley community commented on the university policy, as well as on ways in which campus policies can be improved.

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The UC Office of the President, or UCOP, released a letter Aug. 26, inviting university employees and students to comment on proposed revisions to the sexual violence and sexual harassment, or SVSH, policy.

One possible revision would require confidential resources to inform SVSH survivors of their right to a Title IX director. Another would clarify what constitutes SVSH in medical settings. The revisions formalize the condemnation of sexual harassment by university health providers and ensure that the UC system complies with SB 493 by Jan. 1, 2022, according to the letter.

SB 493 was authored by former California Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson and created in response to amendments made to the federal Title IX regulations by the U.S. Department of Education in 2020, the letter noted. These amendments have “potential adverse effects” that concern the UC system.

“Strong and clear policies are an important aspect of setting the foundation for organizations and communities to make sustainable progress toward prevention,” said Mari Knuth-Bouracee, director of the PATH to Care Center, in an email.

One of the most significant revisions being proposed is the defining and inclusion of sexual exploitation in policy, according to John Bodtker, member of the SVSH Prevention Committee at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

Per the revised university policy on SVSH, sexual exploitation includes lying about one’s birth control or sexually transmitted disease status in order to participate in sexual activities and otherwise coercing another person into engaging in sexual activity.

“While this behavior is already covered by the current policy language, the specific definition helps the community know how to recognize and report when they have experienced harm,” said Sharon Inkelas, special faculty adviser to the chancellor on SVSH, in an email.

In response to proposed policy revisions, members of the UC Berkeley community provided their own commentary.

With regards to preventing SVSH and protecting SVSH survivors, William Dow, campus professor of health policy and management, noted that there “is still much to do.”

ASUC Senator Kalli Zervas said in an email that campus needs to change how SVSH perpetrators are handled, as they are typically allowed to maintain their student status.

According to ASUC Senator Stephanie Wong, campus should fund more SVSH survivor-centered services, simplify the process of reporting cases of SVSH and create an infrastructure that helps support SVSH survivors in their social and academic lives.

“I would like to see greater transparency to the type and nature of SVSH violations in the campus community to better understand exactly what types of trauma survivors experience,” Bodtker said in an email. “It is difficult to (advise) on policies without fully understanding the experiences of survivors.”

To submit comments about the revised UC Policy on SVSH, campus students can contact Executive Director of Civil Rights & Whistleblower Compliance Kellie Brennan at [email protected] Responses must be submitted no later than Nov. 19.

Contact Karen Vo at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @karenvo_DC.