Group looks at shifting culture to focus on accountability

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Speakers representing different campus constituencies noted the need to develop and maintain a culture that encourages everyone to report allegations of sexual misconduct—even if they're second- or third-hand—to the Title IX Office.

A group of engaged faculty, staff, and students gathered Thursday night to discuss progress made toward creating a campus free from sexual violence and sexual harassment and what more is needed.

The meeting, the latest event in the Beyond Compliance initiative, offered overviews of employment law and Title IX investigations, updates on policy revisions and education and training efforts, and previews into possible changes to policy and procedures. The meeting ended with a question-and-answer session.

Speakers representing different campus constituencies noted the need to develop and maintain a culture that encourages everyone to report allegations of sexual misconduct—even if they're second or third-hand—to the Title IX Office. The reports allow the Title IX Office to identify patterns, which can lead to informal investigations or even investigations initiated by the office.

This focus on accountability would contribute to a change in behavioral norms on campus.

Acting Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Martin Berger noted that it takes great bravery from students to report sexual violence and sexual harassment and that faculty must follow their lead.

"To faculty, I say we should be that brave. We have to step up at least to the degree we expect from our students," said Berger, a co-chair of the Beyond Compliance initiative. "We are educators, but nothing is more important than keeping our students safe."

Tracey Tsugawa, the campus Title IX Officer, reported that the campus has received more than 250 reports of sexual misconduct this academic year and has launched more than 30 formal investigations, continuing the pattern of increasing numbers of reports over the past several years.

"We view this as a good thing," Tsugawa said. "We know the numbers really represent only a small percentage of what's really going on but the increase means that people are more aware of these issues and more willing to come forward. Still, many people, for very valid reasons, are reluctant to report incidents; this means we have much more work to do."

Sexual misconduct investigations are confidential for several reasons, she said. The confidentiality is meant to protect the privacy of all parties involved, to ensure the integrity of the investigations, and to prevent retaliation during an investigation.

In certain situations, campus employees are considered “need to know” and made aware of investigations so they can help to keep someone safe. For example, a department chair may be made aware of a case if it involves a staff member and a faculty member in the department to help monitor and enforce a no-contact directive.

A student in the audience commented that many students are still unaware about consent. Under the UC Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment, consent is affirmative, conscious, voluntary, and revocable. Because this definition of consent is a new concept, it requires more education and for people to change how they behave towards each other.

Isabel Dees, an investigator with the Title IX Office, said she knows that can be overcome. "We have to ask permission for everything," Dees said. "Why is sex any different?"

Beyond Compliance Co-chair Kim Lau said faculty must take the lead on shifting culture.

"It's a massive paradigm shift," she said. "We are well-poised to do that work."