Editorial: Survivors deserve to know harassers’ punishments
March 13, 2014 12:00 a.m.
The original headline accompanying this article contained an error and has been changed. See the bottom of the article for additional information.
The University of California recently updated its sexual harassment and violence policy with the intention of making the process of reporting and addressing assaults clearer for survivors and University officials.
Many of the revisions, especially in providing a more precise definition of consent, are much-needed. Unfortunately, the University missed an opportunity to address one of the most glaring gaps in its current policy.
Some survivors of sexual harassment who file complaints with the University cannot currently know how their harasser is punished, information that could provide survivors with much-needed closure, as well as keep the University accountable.
Currently, University officials only inform most survivors of whether their harasser was found guilty of a policy violation.
Information about how the person is punished is withheld unless the accused gives consent or other exceptions apply, including if the misconduct is a sexual offense or disclosing such details is necessary to ensure “compliance with the action of the safety of individuals,” according to the UC policy.
Just as the UC specified its definition of “consent” in the revised policy, the UC should also specify what is meant by “safety” in the context of this policy point.
Surely, the University must acknowledge that safety includes the psychological well-being of survivors, who deserve to know what punitive actions the University will take against their harassers.
As the policy stands, survivors of sexual harassment can be left to believe that their harassers are not adequately punished, adding unnecessary distress.
Beyond ensuring survivor safety and psychological security, the University risks appearing lax on harassers. No form of accountability is offered to complainants who should be offered the assurance the UC appropriately disciplines individuals found to be guilty of harassment.
Pamela Thomason, UCLA’s Title IX officer, said she thinks it is important for survivors to know that the university follows through with their complaint.
UC spokeswoman Brooke Converse told the Daily Bruin earlier this week that the University will continue to take feedback on their policies from UC community members and guidance from state and federal governments.
Any future policy revision, which this board hopes the University will tackle in the near future, should address what information UC community members should be entitled to in the event of harassment.
The University has a moral responsibility to ensure that those who are sexually harassed on UC property or by UC employees have every tool they need to move on from such a harmful experience.
Ultimately, survivors of sexual harassment deserve closure more than their harassers deserve privacy, and the University must enforce that standard.
Correction: Harassment that also falls under assault allows for disclosure of disciplinary sanctions taken against the harasser to the survivor. In other cases of harassment, such as verbal harassment, this information is not guaranteed.