By Nanette Asimov
University of California President Janet Napolitano said last week that a new panel of 75 to 100 people will oversee UC’s efforts to deal with sexual violence at its 10 campuses.
The announcement comes just days before the state auditor is expected to issue a report on how UC’s flagship campuses — UC Berkeley and UCLA — handle sexual assault complaints. State lawmakers had authorized the audit during an emotional hearing in Sacramento in August after nine UC Berkeley students and alumnae accused campus officials of treating their assault allegations far too lightly.
The nine who came forward have ignited national attention on the issue of campus sexual violence and the federal laws designed to address it: Title IX, which requires campuses to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct and prohibits behavior that creates an unequal learning environment at schools that receive federal aid; the Clery Act, which requires such schools to disclose crime information on or around campus; and the Violence Against Women Act, which provides restitution for victims.
In February, 31 UC Berkeley students and alumni filed federal complaints saying Cal officials had discouraged them from reporting assaults and had mishandled the investigations.
Last month, the federal government announced it was investigating possible violations of the federal laws at 55 colleges and universities, including UC Berkeley.
“Sexual violence is a serious crime that we will never tolerate,” Napolitano said in a statement announcing the new panel.
She said campuses already have systems for preventing and responding to allegations of sexual violence and harassment. However, the role of the new panel will be to “review and improve our efforts to make sure the University of California employs innovative, evidence-based and consistent practices across the system,” Napolitano said.
Panel members will divide into five working groups. Among the dozens involved will be UC Regents Bonnie Reiss and Karen Leong Clancy, an undergraduate and graduate student, UC administrators, campus Title IX officers and student conduct officers, and representatives of campus police and victim rights groups.
The panel will meet by teleconference every two to three weeks, according to Napolitano’s office, and in person for two days during the summer.
Across UC, 54 sex offenses were reported in 2012, and 47 in 2011. A report for 2013 is due this month. UC Berkeley reported two rapes and 11 unspecified sex offenses in 2012. At UCLA, there were 10 rapes reported in 2012 and six sex offenses.
Napolitano said UC strengthened its policy against sexual violence and harassment this year by adding training and reporting requirements, bolstering protections for victims, and specifying sanctions for those found guilty.
Defines OK for sex
The new policy also defines what it means for a UC student to agree to have sex. It must be “an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision by each participant.”
The language is almost identical to that being proposed for all publicly funded colleges and universities in California in a bill making its way through the state Legislature. On Tuesday – the same day the state audit is due – the Assembly Higher Education committee will debate SB967, by state Sens. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara. The bill has already passed the Senate.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration proposed a number of changes Thursday to strengthen the Clery Act. Among them would be requiring colleges to collect statistics on dating and domestic violence, as well as stalking, to the statistics they already collect, and adding gender identity and national origin to the act’s definition of hate crimes.
The public will have until July 21 to comment on the proposal. The final regulations will be issued Nov. 1.
— UC campus crimes: To see UC’s campus-by-campus report on crimes of all kinds, go to http://bit.ly/1qyNCpz.
— Nanette Asimov is a San Francisco Chronicle reporter. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org E-mail: email@example.com