Title IX office adds investigators, plans campaign to raise awareness of domestic and dating violence

The UC Santa Cruz Title IX office members, from left, Tracey Tsugawa, Laura Young-Hinck, Isabel Dees, Ray Lader, and Anna Bartkowski. (Photo by Michael Pratt)

When Tracey Tsugawa arrived at UC Santa Cruz in August 2014 she was more than simply the new campus Title IX Officer. She was the entire Title IX office.

Today, Tsugawa and a staff of four handle a growing number of reports of sexual harassment and sexual violence. The office was expanded over the summer after Campus Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway committed additional funding.

Anna Bartkowski, Isabel Dees, and Ray Lader joined the team this fall as complaint resolution officers and Laura Young-Hinck continues to serve as response team coordinator.

In addition to new resources, the campus Title IX office has been moved into Business and Administrative Services, headed by Vice Chancellor Sarah Latham.

Title IX is a 1972 federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in an education program or activity that receives federal funding. Under Title IX, sexual harassment, which includes sexual violence, is a form of unlawful sex discrimination.

Unprecedented attention

Tsugawa’s hiring two years ago occurred as unprecedented attention began to focus on sexual violence and sexual harassment on college campuses nationwide. Several high-profile incidents made national headlines. New federal and state laws were passed.

In January 2014, President Obama announced the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. Six months later UC President Janet Napolitano formed the President’s Task Force on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence and Sexual Assault, pledging to be “the national leader in preventing and combating sexual violence and sexual assault.”

Task force mandates

Napolitano’s task force generated eight new mandates for all UC campuses and revised the UC Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment. One mandate calls for increasing public awareness. Last year, the Title IX office and campus partners created a campus-wide awareness campaign around the concept of “consent.” This year, the campaign will focus on dating and domestic violence after the number of dating and domestic violence reports nearly doubled from 16 in 2014-2015 to 31 in the 2015-2016 academic year.

Although a relatively small percentage of total reports, the dating/domestic violence incidents are serious, Tsugawa said. “These cases often involve complainants who end up in the hospital and respondents who face criminal charges,” she said. “The increase in reports of these incidents prompted us to revise our education and outreach work to increase knowledge and awareness of the issue; too often it remains hidden or goes unreported.”

Reports more than double

The number of Title IX complaints at UC Santa Cruz has more than doubled since 2013-14, more a reflection of increased awareness than an increase in incidents, Tsugawa said. Her predecessor received 85 reports during her final year (2013-14) and conducted four formal investigations. In her first year (2014-15), Tsugawa received 181 reports and her office conducted 22 investigations. In her second (2015-16), she received 233 reports and opened 46 formal investigations.

So far this year, the Title IX office has received almost twice the number of reports as the same time last year. Tsugawa views the increase as a good sign. “People are more willing to report incidents, and with three new investigators we can now respond faster to these reports,” she said. “Hopefully people are feeling less alone.” Tsugawa also noted that based on statistics reflected in recent national research, the increase in reports likely reflects only a small percent of what is actually happening on college campuses. 

Alternative resolutions

Despite an increase in reporting, Tsugawa said there are still many misconceptions about what the Title IX office does. “We don’t automatically launch an investigation,” she said, “there are options, including alternative resolutions.”

Generally, a complainant can choose which option they would like as a response to a report of sexual violence or sexual harassment. However, there are some circumstances in which an investigation may be required, such as cases of physical violence or when there are multiple reports of allegations by the same person. “When there are imminent safety concerns or a larger pattern that needs to be addressed, we may need to conduct what we call a ‘Title IX-initiated investigation’ without a particular complainant,” Tsugawa said.

About 20 percent of people who make a report request a formal investigation, while others seek an alternative resolution. Alternative resolutions may include requests for housing changes, no-contact directives, or academic adjustments. “Our responsibility is to make sure students are safe while they're here,” Tsugawa said. “If someone does not feel safe, they cannot focus on learning and working.”

Graduate students’ unique concerns

About 85 percent of complaints arise from students about other students, but the Title IX office also serves staff and faculty. Graduate students, who are both students and campus employees, have unique concerns, Tsugawa said. They can be on the receiving end of harassment from a faulty member, staff member, or another student. And, as employees who teach, they also have mandatory reporting responsibilities if something is reported to them.

Also, for grad students who may have experienced unwanted attention from, or gender-biased treatment by, a faculty member, reporting “can be especially difficult because that professor may have such a huge influence on a graduate student’s academic career,” Tsugawa said. “There is just so much at stake for them.”  She said the Title IX office works with graduate students to determine the best approach to keep them safe and address their unique concerns.

Resources for additional training

The newly expanded Title IX office will also mean additional training for students, staff and faculty. “This is a big change; it’s a substantial investment and commitment to the Title IX program and will directly support increased training and case management,” Latham said.

Tsugawa said she and her staff work closely with many partners on campus and in the community to build a stronger culture of reporting, response, and support. “We would not be able to do the work without the amazing relationships with allies on this campus,” Tsugawa said. “It makes a huge difference in our ability to respond to reports.”

TO REPORT: To report a possible Title IX violation involving sexual harassment, sex discrimination, or sexual violence (sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking), contact Tracey Tsugawa at 831-459-2462 or ttsugawa@ucsc.edu.