UC San Francisco Title IX Director Fired for Changing, Hiding Complaints
An investigative report determined the former Title IX director changed dates on complaints and hid files from auditors.
UC San Francisco officials have confirmed its Title IX director was fired earlier this year after an investigation determined she ordered employees to change dates on sexual assault complaints to make it appear they were handled more efficiently.
Cristina Pérez-Abelson was fired in April after being placed on paid leave for 10 months pending an investigation. The investigation determined that Pérez-Abelson also instructed staff to hide files from an auditor, according to the SF Chronicle.
The school made its announcement on the heel of several sexual harassment lawsuits that have been filed against the school in the past few months.
In November, an employee sued her former supervisor at the UCSF Women’s Health Center for sexual harassment and religious discrimination. Several weeks later, a postdoctoral researcher filed a sexual harassment and hostile work environment lawsuit against a professor and the school’s regents, reporst the Daily Cal.
Pérez-Abelson was hired in 2013 as a lawyer and was quickly promoted to lead the school’s Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination.
Pérez-Abelson has denied the investigation’s findings to the SF Chronicle, calling the process inadequate. She says her office was overwhelmed by the rising number of sexual harassment complaints due to too few employees. She also says she was given poor guidance from the University of California headquarters on key questions like when the official state date of a complaint should be.
“I’m begging every week — I need additional staff! Look at my office! Stacks and stacks of cases!” she said. “When you’re the person sitting across from the victim, and you’re listening to her complain — and you know you have no one to assign to the case — that wrenches your heart.”
Former Director: Title IX Complaints Skyrocketed Following Employment
Pérez-Abelson says the previous Title IX director handled 40 complaints a year while she handled 250. She also recalled her frustration as UC changed its sexual harassment policy three times from February 2014 to January 2016.
At the start of Pérez-Abelson’s employment, nine UC Berkeley students and alumnae had accused campus officials of not taking their sexual assault allegations seriously.
“I would scream from the rooftops. There was no guidance on how to implement them.”
According to the investigative report, staff members said it was a “regular practice of Pérez-Abelson to delay assigning cases that came into the office. When assigned, the cases typically had a date in the file that was later than the date the complaint was actually received.”
Pérez-Abelson says it was never clear to her what date an investigation should formally begin and any dates she changed were done to “improve the record keeping”.
Claire Doan, a spokeswoman for UC’s Office of the President, says campuses have 60 days to conclude sexual harassment investigations but says before February 2016, it was “unclear how campuses marked the beginning of that investigation time frame.”
In February, the school clarified investigations must begin on the date a notice letter is sent to the complainant and the accused, according to Doan.
Pérez-Abelson also denied claims from employees that she concealed files from auditors, indicating her department would only set aside boxes that contained “old and irrelevant” files.
The school says its Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination has taken measures to improve prevention efforts, including additional staff and mandatory education and training for UCSF community members.
Hired to replace Pérez-Abelson was Nyoki T. Sacramento, who now works closely with Kathleen Salvaty, the Title IX director for the entire UC system.
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