Students are encouraging the university to adopt a more democratic review process for sexual assault cases.
The undergraduate student government passed a resolution last Tuesday that recommends the University of California Office of the President make its peer review committee, which intervenes if the university fails to respond adequately to allegations, more diverse.
The resolution also proposes several recommendations to the UC-wide Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment policy revision, which members of Bruins Against Sexual Harassment think lacks transparency.
BASH proposed the resolution in response to UCLA’s settlement of Professor Gabriel Piterberg’s sexual harassment case, said Shir Alon, a BASH member and graduate student in comparative literature.
BASH is a student-run group that aims to improve investigation and adjudication policies on sexual violence and sexual harassment at UCLA.
Alon said she hopes the resolution will increase community involvement and pressure UCLA administration to be more open when deciding policies and sanctions.
The UC extensively revised its SVSH policy in January, with systemwide policy recommendations issued by the UC Office of the President. The revisions are currently being implemented.
One of the SVSH policy recommendations includes forming a campus peer review committee that will review the final report of each case and advise the chancellor about what forms of discipline would be appropriate.
BASH members think the committee should be diverse and that the proposed selection process for the committee should include members from more parts of campus, such as undergraduate students and graduate students, said Viola Ardeni, a member of BASH and graduate student studying Italian.
“I think it is good timing that we proposed this resolution now, because the formation of a campus peer review committee is currently being established,” Ardeni said. “And we hope that they can rethink about the members.”
BASH also believes the revised SVSH policy does not recognize abuse of power by campus leaders, professors and staff as potentially aggravating conditions in sexual assault cases.
In response, the Undergraduate Students Association Council resolution aims to encourage UCLA’s Title IX office and the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to better recognize power abuse.
“The language of the new SVSH policy also needs clarification in identifying the terms of the investigation timeline, local procedures, to reach much clearer guidelines,” Alon said.
USAC President Danny Siegel said he thinks the new resolution is a tangible and realistic solution for the campus to consider.
“I think it will put pressure on impacting the final members of the peer review committee,” Siegel said. “If you include members from all parts of campus, including undergraduate leaders, it could largely impact the communication between administration.”
Siegel decided to endorse the resolution to show support for BASH and its activism, which included the protests against Professor Piterberg this quarter.
“It’s pretty outrageous to a lot of students that professor Piterberg is able to continue teaching,” Siegel said. “However, I think the resolution holds a strong stance in a measure to ensure that this is not repeated in the future.”
BASH hopes the USAC resolution will help enhance future changes in campus policy through increased discussion with campus administrative bodies involved with SVSH cases.
“We see this (resolution) as a beginning of a conversation with the Title IX and (Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) Jerry Kang’s office,” Alon said.