Cal Auditors Propose Changes to Campus Sexual Violence Prevention, Response Laws

Report says colleges in the Golden State must improve handling of sexual violence claims and prevention efforts.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Universities in California must do a better job of preventing, responding and resolving incidents of sexual harassment and violence, according to the results of an audit released Tuesday by California’s state auditor. The report recommends amendments to current laws on how campuses handle sexual misconduct.

The audit reviewed four universities: the University of California (UC), Berkeley; UCLA, California State University (CSU), Chico; and CSU San Diego, and found that there needed to be more training of employees and students. Auditors said that these schools do not ensure that all faculty and staff are sufficiently trained on responding to and reporting these incidents to appropriate officials. They also found that university employees who are likely to be the first point of contact, such as resident advisors and coaches, are not sufficiently trained.

“By not ensuring that all university employees are adequately and routinely trained on responding to and reporting incidents of sexual harassment and sexual violence, and by not providing practical information on how to identify incidents, universities risk having their employees mishandle student reports of the incidents,” the audit said. “Further, when they are not sufficiently trained, employees may not know how to interact appropriately with students in these situations and may do something that would discourage students from engaging in the reporting process.”

The audit did find, however, that Title IX coordinators and staff involved in key roles of the incident-reporting process received adequate training.

Of the students who were surveyed, 35% said they had experienced sexual harassment or violence by another member of the campus community between 2009 and 2014, and 87% of those individuals did not file a Title IX complaint. More than one in five students (22%) were not aware of the resources available on campus should they or someone they know experience such incidents.

The report recommends schools educate new students on sexual harassment and violence when they arrive on campus, as well as provide refresher training to returning students at least annually. State law requires universities within the CSU system and requests those within the UC system to provide educational and preventive information about sexual violence to all incoming students as part of established campus orientations, although it does not specify exactly when new student orientations must occur.

Auditors also discovered that schools did not always comply with requirements in state law for distribution of relevant policies. “To ensure that students are informed and reminded of the policies, it is important for the universities to prominently post them in locations frequented by students,” the audit claimed.

On a positive note, each university that was reviewed has an adequate overall process for responding to incidents of sexual harassment and sexual violence. “However, our review of 80 case files at the four universities revealed that the universities need to improve these processes in some key areas,” the report said. “Specifically, the universities should do more to demonstrate that a student who may have experienced sexual harassment or sexual violence is informed of his or her reporting options and what to expect regarding the university’s subsequent actions.”

Additionally, universities need to better inform students who file a complaint of the status of the investigation and notify them of the eventual outcome.

The audit recommended the following legislative actions be taken:

  • Amend state law to require universities to educate all university employees annually, consistent with their role, on their obligations in responding to and reporting incidents of sexual harassment and sexual violence involving students.
  • Amend state law to expressly require that incoming students be provided education on sexual harassment and sexual violence as close as possible to when they arrive on campus but no later than the first few weeks of their first semester or quarter.
  • Amend state law to require universities to provide information on their sexual harassment policies in additional prominent locations frequented by students, such as residence halls and other university housing and athletic facilities.

 

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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