Kathleen Salvaty, the new system-wide Title IX coordinator for the University of California, said she thinks calls for greater transparency in the adjudication process need to be balanced with the privacy of complainants.
In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness month, Salvaty organized a press conference with UC student newspapers to discuss resources for student complainants. In the teleconference, she also explained some of the processes behind sexual violence and sexual harassment investigations.
Though Salvaty said she thinks the UC’s release of 113 Title IX investigation reports are one step toward transparency, the University also needs to protect the privacy of respondents, some of whom are found not responsible.
“It’s an issue we’re thinking about,” Salvaty said. “How can we allow people to hold the Title IX process accountable?”
Complaints of sexual violence that may not have undergone formal investigations under past UC policies would likely be investigated now, Salvaty added.
“The policy provides that a complainant request to conduct a formal investigation is a very important factor to consider, but ultimately it’s the Title IX officer’s decision whether to conduct an investigation,” Salvaty said. “When a complainant comes, states there has been a violation of policy and requests an investigation, it would be a very unusual case where the coordinator says, ‘No.’”
The UC implemented a new sexual violence and sexual harassment policy in 2016, which required Title IX offices, rather than dean of students offices, to investigate reports of sexual assault.
In the past, some cases, such as the sexual assault allegations against history professor Gabriel Piterberg, did not undergo formal investigation. The settlement for Piterberg’s case suspended him for a quarter without pay, limited his access to students and removed him from his position as director of the Center for Near Eastern Studies, which some students felt were insufficient actions.
Salvaty also said the process for student sexual harassment investigations differs from investigations for staff and faculty because students do not get a hearing process.
The system-wide Title IX office is also working with every campus to make sure investigations are conducted in a timely manner, Salvaty said.
“All the campuses have increased resources to improve speed of investigations, but we want to make sure we’re being thorough and allow sides to come forward with all the information they have,” she added.
Title IX offices are concerned about undocumented students who experience sexual harassment or sexual violence and may feel unsafe reporting incidents, Salvaty said.
“The Title IX office does not ask about status, and we’d make that very clear,” she said.
Salvaty added she thinks CARE advocates, who are confidential resources for sexual violence survivors, can be valuable as a first point of contact to make decisions about reporting. CARE advocates also work with students, help with academic and living accommodations, and refer students to additional resources.
Salvaty said sexual misconduct training should educate people about the resources and options available so they understand their rights, and it should also emphasize how damaging sexual misconduct can be to students’ educational experiences or employees’ work experiences.
“There’s no easy answer for prevention (of sexual violence and sexual harassment), but we have thought a lot about who we’re speaking to and what to convey,” Salvaty said.