Wednesday, May 27

Bruins hope for more transparency following Title IX document release

News, UC

Student groups, such as Bruins Against Sexual Harassment and Bruin Consent Coalition, have protested past decisions made by UCLA about sexual harassment cases. (Jintak Han/Assistant Photo editor)

Campus groups who focus on preventing and addressing sexual harassment said they hope the release of Title IX reports by the University of California will lead to more transparency.

Bruins Against Sexual Harassment, United Auto Workers Local 2865 and Bruin Consent Coalition have protested UCLA’s settlement of a lawsuit with history professor Gabriel Piterberg on sexual harassment allegations.

Jonathan Koch, unit chair for UAW Local 2865 and a graduate student in music, said he was not surprised by the many new cases of harassment, given the Title IX office’s poor handling of the Piterberg case.

UAW Local 2865 is the union that represents student workers across the UC system, which includes teaching assistants, readers and tutors.

UCLA dropped a Title IX investigation with Piterberg, who was accused by two graduate students of sexual harassment in 2013, and settled a lawsuit with him over the allegations in 2014.

Koch also said he thinks, in many cases, faculty should have been fired, but the university decided not to.

He added he was glad the university complied with the records requests, and hopes the UC asks other community members to draft future sexual harassment policies rather than submit public comments.

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

Sophia Arim, a co-director of BCC and fourth-year history student, said she thinks it is unfortunate the UC had so many cases of sexual harassment. The number of actual cases, she said, is probably much higher since many sexual assault cases go unreported.

She also said she hopes the public disclosure of the documents does not discourage survivors from confidentially reporting.

Yong-Yi Chiang, a co-director of BCC and third-year international development studies and gender studies student, said BCC is advocating for student input on the Faculty Peer Review Committee, either through representation or interviewing potential committee candidates. The Faculty Peer Review Committee reviews the sanctions for faculty members accused of sexual harassment or assault.

Chiang said she thinks having student input in the Faculty Peer Review Committee would prevent an abuse of power by university officials in sexual assault cases.

Viola Ardeni, member of BASH and graduate student in Italian, said she hopes the UC’s release of documents is one of many steps toward transparency on sexual harassment case adjudications.

She also said she thinks the campus community should be more informed about and involved in cases of sexual harassment.

Ardeni added she thinks if UCLA officials had been more transparent in the Piterburg case, student groups would not have demonstrated in Piterberg’s classroom at the beginning of winter quarter.

“We want the university (to) … instead of having (the reports) published after they all happened, make sure they’re transparent every time,” Ardeni said.

[Related: Student protesters demonstrate outside Piterberg’s class]

Jerry Kang, vice chancellor of equity, diversity and inclusion, sent a campuswide email Thursday in which he said sexual harassment sometimes reflects an abuse of academic authority and violation of trust, in response to the UC’s document release.

He added UCLA and the UC system has implemented new systems since 2015 to improve the university’s response to sexual harassment.

For example, before the creation of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in 2015, only two people worked on Title IX cases. Now, there are seven people in the Title IX office.

The majority of the sexual harassment investigation reports in the documents released Tuesday were made before the UC implemented new sexual violence and sexual harassment policies and procedures.

The changes, approved in 2016, require almost all employees to notify the Title IX office of potential cases of sexual harassment and violence, Kang said. Professors, supervisors and administrators can no longer solely determine whether a report of sexual harassment can be taken seriously.

Kang added the new procedures offer greater transparency and the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion has negotiated with student organizations on the process of settling sexual assault cases.

Assistant News Editor

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