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UC Berkeley responds to state audit on sexual assault policies

Note: Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ response to the state audit report on sexual harassment and sexual violence at UC Berkeley and three other California universities was published in the San Francisco Chronicle’s op-ed section on June 24, 2014. See the article below.

The California State Auditor has completed its review of sexual harassment and sexual violence policies and processes at selected California State University and University of California campuses, including UC Berkeley. Because UC Berkeley has been a focal point of student activism on this issue more than at the other institutions, I believe it is important that we are transparent in publicly responding to the audit recommendations.

First and foremost, I welcome the report’s findings and recommendations. I believe this audit will only help us advance on our shared and unequivocal commitment to do what is necessary to create and sustain a caring culture of sexual assault prevention and reporting on our campus, and to hold members of our community accountable for violating the university’s sexual assault policies.

The audit identified areas where UC Berkeley needs to improve, particularly in awareness training, not just students but for the entire campus community. We will immediately undertake initiatives to make the necessary improvements.

I also am encouraged by the reviewers’ positive conclusion on two key areas: the manner in which the UC Berkeley campus resolves complaints of sexual harassment or sexual violence, and the manner in which we sanction those found culpable. These areas have been the subject of extensive debate and discussion, and criticism by some students. I hope the report’s findings will allow all of us who are concerned about and involved in these issues to proceed with reforms based on the facts presented by this objective and independent review.

I also welcome the report’s acknowledgment that UC Berkeley has strengthened and improved its policies and practices, and its conclusion that our campus police department has acted appropriately when students reported sexual misconduct.

We have already taken a significant number of steps to improve the support we provide to students, enhanced our educational and informational resources, and increased the number of investigative and support staff. Yet, our work is clearly not done. We can and must go beyond what is already in place or in progress.

Working in concert with the University of California Office of the President, we will examine ways to enhance and improve our training and educational programs for students, faculty and staff.

We will also explore ways to make sure that every student completes required training, with emphasis on providing supplemental educational programming to members of fraternities and sororities and student athletes.

We also will proceed with our plans to fill the new position of confidential survivor advocate, create a public awareness campaign and find ways to ensure that complainants and respondents alike receive adequate, timely information about conduct procedures and the status of cases.

This audit, along with increased awareness brought about by a national student movement, along with legislative efforts and the recent release of a report and recommendations from the White House Task Force on Sexual Assault, are hopeful signs that together we can and will bring about change for the better, supported by the development of best practices that campuses can share across the country.

I look forward to working with the UC Berkeley campus community as we strive to address these complicated challenges. UC Berkeley alone cannot solve a national problem, but we can take a leadership role for academia and the public we serve in creating a culture where prevention, reporting and accountability result in a safe and respectful campus for all.