Dept. of Ed.: UC Berkeley Mishandled Sexual Assault Complaints
An agreement between UC Berkeley and the U.S. Department of Education will require the school to revisit eight sexual misconduct cases it may have mishandled.
An investigation by the U.S. Department of Education determined UC Berkeley failed to give all students the opportunity for a formal investigation into their sexual assault complaints.
The civil rights office reviewed the California school’s handling of reported sexual misconduct complaints from 2011 to 2014 and some from 2017, reports SF Chronicle.
Overall, the office found that although the campus has improved in some areas, it remained out of compliance with Title IX in key areas, including resolving cases in a timely manner.
As part of a resolution agreement between the UC Berkeley and the office, the school must revisit eight sexual misconduct cases it may have mishandled. The school must also tighten policies for educating students and employees on preventing sexual assault.
The civil rights office will continue to oversee compliance for two more years. During that time, the school will study the effectiveness of its “alternative resolution process”, which is described as “simple and discreet actions” to resolve sexual misconduct complaints without an investigation.
Six of the eight cases involve students who accused graduate student instructors or faculty of abuse and were only offered the alternative resolution process.
Under the new agreement, if any of the eight students whose cases will be reexamined are still enrolled in the school, they must be asked if they are experiencing “a hostile environment on the basis of sex.” If they answer yes, the school must try to resolve the problem and offer to investigate or provide an alternative resolution.
The federal case accusing campus officials of mishandling reports of sexual misconduct was filed in 2014 by more than two dozen students and former students who claim they were sexually assaulted as students, reports CBS Local. The group was organized by 24-year-old Sofie Karasek, who was a junior at the time.
“I’m relieved that the Education Department has finally validated the students who called on this university to take action,” said Karasek of the agreement.
Karasek says the school gave her no option for a formal investigation when she was sexually assaulted by another student in April 2012. It wasn’t until December that the school sent her an email saying the matter had been resolved using the alternative resolution process and her alleged assailant graduated six months early.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ thanked the students who came forward in a letter to the campus and said the school will add services for handling sexual assault complaints. The school will also create a position titled ‘Special Faculty Advisor to the Chancellor of Sexual Violence/Sexual Harassment’, whose role will be to support campus-wide sexual misconduct prevention and response efforts.
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