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Task force on sexual assault makes recommendations to UC Regents

By Daily Bruin

Sept. 17, 2014 11:36 a.m.

SAN FRANCISCO — Members of a University of California task force on sexual assault said Wednesday that the UC should establish consistent system-wide standards for handling and preventing sexual violence and develop comprehensive, mandatory education programs for students, faculty and staff.

Task force members also called for the University to commit funding to programs outlined in the recommendations to ensure they are properly implemented and continued. No funding estimates were given during the regents meeting, but UC President Janet Napolitano said she will work to fund the programs appropriately.

The task force, led by UC Office of the President Chief Compliance and Audit Officer Sheryl Vacca, made seven key recommendations at the UC Board of Regents’ meeting:

  • Establish a consistent response team model for reports of sexual violence and assault at all campuses. Vacca said each campus should have two response teams – one for reporting and handling sexual violence and another for preventing sexual violence.
  • Adopt a system-wide, standard investigation and adjudication process for handling reports of sexual assault.
  • Form a comprehensive training and education plan that includes mandatory education and awareness programs across the UC, as well as ongoing education for certain student groups.
  • Implement a communication strategy to educate the community about preventing and handling sexual violence on campus, and have students play an active role in developing that strategy.
  • Establish an independent confidential advocacy office for survivors on each campus. UCLA has a confidential student care manager, but some campuses do not, Vacca said. She added that the office should be independent from the adjudication and investigation process so students will not be afraid of repercussions when they go to the office.
  • Create a UC website with resource information that provides a common language across universities in the system. The central UC site will contain links to websites for individual campuses.
  • Establish a UC-wide standard for data collection on incidents of sexual violence, harassment and assault.

Recommendations are set to take effect throughout the 2014-2015 academic year and fully implemented by fall 2015. During the process, the task force will continue to come up with ways to implement its recommendations appropriately.

Napolitano created the task force in June to improve sexual violence education and prevention on UC campuses.

The task force currently consists of 30 members, including University police officials, UC and campus administrators and survivor advocacy group representatives. UC regents Bonnie Reiss and Karen Leong Clancy, as well as Student Regent Sadia Saifuddin also sat on the task force.From UCLA, chief of police James Herren, TItle IX Officer Pamela Thomason and Undergraduate Students Association Council Student Wellness Commissioner Savannah Badalich are part of the task force.

The task force’s recommendations come as state and federal agencies have pointed out flaws in and launched investigations into universities’ handling of sexual violence reports across the country.

Several days after Napolitano formed the task force, the California State Auditor found that UCLA does not adequately educate its faculty and staff about handling sexual violence incidents.

Earlier in August, UCLA also came under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for potential federal violations in its handling of sexual violence complaints, joining a list of 75 other colleges and universities in the nation also under investigation for Title IX compliance. Title IX, a federal provision, prohibits sex-based discrimination in institutions receiving federal funds.

The investigation may take about six months, or possibly longer, to complete.

Compiled by Eu Ran Kwak and Trevor Cleere, Bruin contributors.

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