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UC prepares to finalize revised draft of sexual assault policy

By Sierra deSousa

April 30, 2015 12:56 a.m.

The University of California is preparing to finalize its new policy on sexual harassment and sexual violence by opening it up to a final systemwide review.

While some students said they are pleased with the second draft, some faculty still think the language is unclear and does not sufficiently address all possible scenarios.

The revised policy requires more specific mandatory training and education for all faculty, staff and students on trauma-informed approaches to cases of sexual misconduct. The new policy also complies with President Barack Obama’s directive to disclose disciplinary actions to complainants, includes amnesty for reporters of sexual misconduct and adds the term “abuse” under domestic and sexual violence.

The University issued a first draft of the policy in March 2014 as mandated by Obama’s reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 in 2013. The act required the University to update its sexual harassment and assault policy by July 1, 2015, to include student discipline procedures and customized training for different personnel.

UC President Janet Napolitano established a task force on sexual violence in June that submitted seven key recommendations for the new policy in September, which were incorporated into the second draft.

“It’s important that all students feel safe on campus and all members of the University community know what their responsibilities are and how to respond to cases of sexual misconduct,” said University spokesman Steve Montiel.

Savannah Badalich, a task force member and the founder of 7000 in Solidarity, a campaign against sexual assault at UCLA, said she thinks the provision for mandatory training on trauma-informed approaches is critical. “Trauma-informed” means that faculty know what information they are required to relay to victims and witnesses involved in a traumatic event.

Faculty members are mandated reporters, meaning that if they hear instances regarding sexual assault – including the name of the perpetrator of sexual misconduct – they are required to report that information to the dean.

“Oftentimes, victims or witnesses will confide in faculty and staff without knowing that they are required to report it,” said Badalich, the Undergraduate Students Association Council Student Wellness commissioner. “A huge part of the training is making sure that faculty inform the students that they are mandated reporters.”

Another key revision from the first draft is disciplinary amnesty for witnesses and victims who were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Badalich said it was informal practice for UCLA not to sanction, but this provision was never included in the official policy.

“Many students are afraid to report because they were under the influence. This provision takes away that natural fear of being sanctioned for other infractions,” Badalich said.

Some faculty members feel the policy is still a work in progress. Many are still unsatisfied with what they describe as the document’s ambiguous and confusing language.

“According to the feedback I’ve been getting from faculty, (the policy) is still not well-written,” said UC Academic Senate Chair Mary Gilly. “It needs to be made more clear so that teachers, parents and students can understand it.”

While the policy identifies all parties that could be involved in sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus, Gilly said she thinks it focuses only on student-to-student cases. She said she thinks the document should be more explicit about how to handle faculty-to-student and faculty-to-faculty cases as well.

The state mandates that all state employees with supervisory functions have to take two hours of mandatory sexual harassment training every other year, but the VAWA requires continuous training. Some faculty members said they would like clarification as to who needs the additional training and how often faculty will have to do it.

“Although the second draft is a considerable improvement from the first, we plan to get very detailed feedback,” Gilly said. “Some definite changes need to be made because a lot of the wording is still very vague.”

The University declined to comment on the complaints proposed by faculty.

An Academic Council meeting was held Wednesday to finalize recommendations that will be submitted for review by the UC Office of the President.

However, despite faculty concerns, Badalich said she is pleased with the second draft. She said her only issues are that she thinks the language is still unclear and the policy should use gender-inclusive terms.

“We are really closing the gap as far as what we want from our universities,” Badalich said. “I do have additional recommendations, but overall I’m blown away by the proactivity of our UC system.”

Anyone can submit comments on the policy draft until May 20 by emailing [email protected] For any questions, contact Janet Lockwood, director of academic policy and compensation, at [email protected]

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Sierra deSousa | News reporter
Sierra deSousa is currently a news reporter covering Westwood, transportation and Los Angeles. She has also covered the University of California.
Sierra deSousa is currently a news reporter covering Westwood, transportation and Los Angeles. She has also covered the University of California.
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