Monday, May 29

Editorial: UC must be more transparent with sexual misconduct records


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Instead of letting sexual harassment investigation reports grow dusty in filing cabinets, the University of California should regularly publish information about violations to inform the community of their scale and severity.

Last week, in response to public records requests from various media outlets, the UC released final investigation and disciplinary reports on sexual violence and harassment, dating from between January 2013 and April 2016. The cases, 25 of which occurred at UCLA, expose a variety of sexual misconduct violations committed by staff and faculty members, and show the full extent of the issue among university employees.

[Related: Twenty-five UCLA employees identified in UC sexual harassment reports]

But the records only came about through a lengthy request process. This signals the UC’s troubling practice of tucking away information that is relevant to the public. In the interest of transparency and progress when it comes to sexual misconduct, the UC must publish information from Title IX investigations in annual reports.

These reports should contain information similar to what was released last week, including the exact acts individuals committed, the steps taken to investigate them and the punishments they received – or didn’t.

It’s important to note that this board is not concerned with whether the university has properly punished accused persons. After all, administration has made a great deal of progress in improving its Title IX office, be that through expanding it or mandating employees immediately report sexual harassment violations. Rather, what this board is wary about is the university’s willingness to sit on a plethora of misconduct data but not present it to the public.

For instance, the public deserves to know that several employees across UCLA Health were disciplined for making sexual comments and advances toward co-workers and, in one case, a patient.

Certainly, there’s been some transparency on this issue, at least at UCLA. The university’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion released a public accountability report in July providing general statistics on gender discrimination complaints.

But while the information is useful, a few pages of pie charts just won’t cut it. If the UC is serious about transparency, it needs to orchestrate an effort at every campus to release specific information related to sexual harassment violations.

Publishing annual reports summarizing the year’s individual sexual misconduct cases would better poise the UC to reform workplace environments vulnerable to sexual misconduct. Moreover, the UC’s forthrightness has been especially problematic when it comes to Title IX investigations, and if it truly wants to hold itself as the premier public university system of the west coast, transparency in sexual misconduct cases is a must.

Of course, the confidentiality of Title IX investigations must be respected, and this board recognizes that. However, many of the privacy guarantees of investigations are agreed upon on a case-by-case basis by the UC and the accused persons – such as limiting the public’s access to investigation data unless they pursue long-term California Public Records Act requests.

Sexual violence shouldn’t be accepted on our campus – or any college campus, for that matter. But the best way to address it is to have the full set of facts easily available. The UC would be mistaken to sacrifice all this in the name of confidentiality.

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