Creating a safe campus culture

To: UC Santa Cruz Community

From: Interim Campus Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor Herbert Lee

UC Santa Cruz has seen a dramatic uptick in reports of sexual violence and sexual harassment (SVSH) over the past few years. While only 85 reports were received during the 2013-14 academic year, that number jumped to 181 in 2014-15, 233 in 2015-16, and we are on track to receive approximately 375 reports this year.

These numbers are both concerning and encouraging; statistically, we know the reports represent just a small percentage of the overall number of incidents that occur annually, yet we also are encouraged because they reveal that more complainants are willing to come forward. I see that as a sign we are moving in the right direction.

This year we have seen a few cases on campus move from the confidential realm into the public eye, accompanied by intense public discourse. While I cannot offer specific details—for legal and policy reasons—I wish to affirm a series of bedrock principles I hope all of us in the campus community can embrace, no matter what our opinions on particular cases:

  • No one should ever be subjected to sexual violence or sexual harassment.
  • We all must recognize the power disparities that exist on campus, such as the student-faculty and staff-supervisor relationships. That leaves some populations inherently more vulnerable, which may make them feel less empowered or safe to report offenses.
  • We have an obligation to promptly report suspected incidents of SVSH to the Title IX Office, to ensure that adequate safety measures are implemented, and to support those brave individuals who have elected to come forward.
  • In addition, I want everyone to know our campus will not tolerate retaliation against those who report misconduct. We will respond to any acts of retaliation swiftly and immediately.
  • We must leave the investigation of allegations to the Title IX Office. It is inappropriate for faculty, staff, or students to conduct their own inquiries or to discuss sensitive and confidential matters, particularly while they are still pending in the Title IX Office. Open discussion of these matters complicates the work of the Title IX Office, violates the privacy of all parties involved, compromises the integrity of an investigation, and may be perceived as an intimidation tactic or a form of retaliation.
  • We must not campaign against individuals accused of Title IX violations or complainants reporting Title IX violations. While it can be difficult to refrain from reaching conclusions about a respondent or a complainant, public judgment before the investigation and adjudication processes are complete violates fundamental rights, including the right to due process.

No process is perfect, particularly one designed to address complex issues like sexual harassment and sexual violence, but I remain convinced that our existing process is vastly more equitable and effective than the interventions of individuals or groups working on their own.

I have no doubt that our campus community as a whole is committed to creating an environment where all students, staff, and faculty feel safe and respected, where complainants can come forward with confidence that they will be heard, and that the university will respond appropriately to their reports. To create that reality, we need to work together.

That effort is well under way. We have had two Beyond Compliance meetings this year and have more planned for this fall.

I encourage all who care deeply about this issue to remain engaged, to direct your energies toward improving our campus climate and culture so we can create the community to which we all aspire—one free of sexual violence and sexual harassment.