Thursday, February 27, 2014

Complaint filed by Cal students

Yesterday, a group of former and current students filed two separate federal complaints related to the ways in which the University of California Berkeley has handled and reported sexual assault cases. Thirty-one students/alumni joined together to formally protest the university's response to sexual assault at the Berkeley campus.
The first is a Title IX complaint focusing on how the university has dealt with sexual assault. The second alleges Clery Act violations and is based on allegations that staff discouraged students from reporting sexual assaults (which would lower the number of incidents of sexual assault the university would have to publicly report). This is the second Clery Act complaint in less than a year. A complaint from May 2013 which triggered an audit (as yet to be complete) states that the university is underreporting sexual assault.
Media coverage of the filings include stories from named complainants who have recounted their own stories of sexual assault--some as long ago as the 1970s--and dealing with inadequate policies and inadequately trained staff in the wake of their assaults. The stories are all disheartening (at best), but unfortunately nothing we have not heard from other victims. 
One major issue seems to be the amount of time investigations take including delays in investigations and the lack of communication to victims about the state of the investigation.
A second issue is the way various staff members are handling these reports, the suggestions they are providing to victims, and the remedies--or lack thereof--being provided. A multiple-time assailant who seemed to be targeting women in the same student organization was allowed to stay in the organization so he could have the support of other members who would tell him it was wrong if he did it again. 
Finally, the university is also not taking measures, based on reported incidents, to protect students who report sexual assault. Several complainants said they were continually harassed by their assailant and/or friends of the assailant. Class schedules were not changed to prevent the victim and assailant from being in close proximity. Reports by victims also seem to suggest that the school's judicial process lacks some consistency. 
The filings at Berkeley are one of 60 that OCR has seen in the last three years, according to HuffPo, which has mapped all of the complaints and provides summaries of the cases and their current state (active, pending, closed).