While it is unarguable that the University of California’s measures over the past 18 months to improve the handling of cases of sexual misconduct and assault are comprehensive, the process could easily benefit by further centralization of procedures across every UC campus.
Currently, every UC campus has a case management team that ensures the institution responds to cases of sexual assault timely and appropriately, with both the complainant and the respondent receiving equal and objective treatment. In addition there exists a second team that focuses on policies, intervention, prevention and community relations. These two teams work alongside the Title IX office, which handles complaints of sexual assault and misconduct.
Following a state audit in June 2014 that found that UCLA’s and UC Berkeley’s handling of complaints required improvements, the UC said one of its aims was to “ensure consistency across all UC campuses.” But the way things are currently structured doesn’t fully realize this objective. Right now the various offices that handle sexual assault issues on separate campuses have a few independent powers that can prevent consistency across the system.
Having a fragmented and individualized process like this prevents the UC from appropriately addressing issues in how it handles sexual misconduct complaints without looking at every campus individually.
As such, in order to more closely fulfill their promise, the UC president’s Task Force on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence and Sexual Assault should recommend that measures implemented on individual campuses be copied at a central UC-wide level. A team composed of experienced members in charge can delegate the campuses’ specific bodies to work responsibly and efficiently, while improving the process simultaneously.
Under the tutelage of either UC’s discrimination, affirmative action, Title IX officer or the UC Office of the President , a UC-wide case management team could monitor the working of the various university bodies. This team could further ensure objectivity and that the campuses are appropriately and fairly handing complaints of sexual assault. This body can also compare how different campuses handle complaints and investigations and help the UC work towards implementing a uniform policy for every university.
Additionally, this proposal would ensure further standardization throughout all campuses and provide a larger pool for the UC to learn from and draw upon when it comes to implementing future measures. A central body can also prevent any bias that could arise in the handling of complaints by university bodies.
Currently, the UC has a systemwide education model on sexual violence implemented by campus-specific teams. Alongside the separate teams, one unified body that functions across the UC could help lay down a common program for universities to follow. A central body for awareness and education can focus on the framework of the program as a whole, with individual teams focusing mainly on campus-specific issues of awareness.
Generally, the Task Force on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence and Sexual Assault makes recommendations for UC President Janet Napolitano’s consideration. Following this, the UC implements measures as needed. That’s why the task force, keeping its aim of standardization in mind, is an ideal candidate to recommend such a policy.
Some would say that having multiple teams to handle complaints of sexual misconduct, provide resources to victims and investigate cases of sexual violence makes the entire process complex and expensive. However, having multiple teams and officers looking at cases of sexual misconduct ensures that there are multiple safeguards against mishandling complaints. Handling sexual misconduct cases is central to implementing a safe and fair campus environment. These resources deserve funding from universities to work towards this goal.
Having more eyes would not necessarily make processes more complex and time-consuming. These bodies would allow the campus bodies to carry out their duties, while simultaneously monitoring cases and making recommendations. Despite the idea that the UC can use a centralized system to hide cases and protect its reputation, universities themselves can sweep cases under the rug without the presence of a central body. In fact, more eyes could prevent this kind of cover up, as there are more voices involved in making sure everyone is doing the right thing.
In order to fulfill its aim of standardizing procedures across campuses, the UC must implement bodies at a central level to coordinate and ensure consistency across all campuses of the UC system. This would further the quality of the UC’s response to handling complaints of sexual misconduct. By further centralizing resources, the UC could take its biggest step yet in ensuring the fair treatment of all students.