Responses to the Audit
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The Regents of the University of California
May 31, 2018
Ms. Elaine M. Howle
California State Auditor
621 Capitol Mall, Suite 1200
Sacramento, California 95814
State Auditor Howle:
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the recommendation made to the Board of Regents in the draft audit report on the University of California's response to sexual harassment and sexual violence complaints.
We agree with the recommendation and will ensure that the Academic Senate further define its bylaws with written requirements for the Privilege and Tenure Committee to specify exact time frames for completing the phases of the disciplinary process by July 2019.
Chair, UC Board of Regents
Chair, Compliance and Audit Committee
University of California Office of the President
May 31, 2018
Dear State Auditor Howle:
I write regarding your draft audit report on the University of California’s response to sexual harassment and sexual violence (SVSH) complaints. UC shares your commitment to combatting and preventing SVSH, as demonstrated by the many proactive changes and improvements we have made throughout our University system since I arrived in 2013.
UC accepts all of the recommendations made to the University of California Office of the President and is committed to implementing them, as they further reinforce and improve our Title IX policies and procedures. I am pleased that the audit found no instances of punitive settlement agreements, and that settlement agreements are reasonable and not intended to restrict the opportunities of students who bring legal challenges against the University. I understand it was these concerns that gave rise to the legislative request for the audit, and I am gratified CSA’s conclusions underscore our strong commitment to protecting our community from retaliation.
I would like to highlight some crucial context for the audit report:
- UC has made recent, significant improvements not yet in place during the period of CSA’s review. UC issued a robust systemwide SVSH policy in 2016 that defined prohibited behavior, set forth the University’s prevention and response obligations, and established the authority of the Title IX coordinators. As CSA recommends, we will soon revise this policy to ensure that it better reflects best practices. The University later adopted systemwide procedures for investigating and adjudicating SVSH reports for student respondents in 2016 and for faculty and staff respondents in 2017. The timeliness of investigations, transparency of outcomes and consistency of discipline are among the critical issues UC took the initiative to address. These major procedural changes were not yet in place during most of the timeframe that CSA analyzed. The improvements and progress in the 2017 procedures for faculty and staff respondents, in particular, are not reflected in the data reviewed during the audit.
- UC has, and must continue, its efforts mindful of the University’s shared governance system. We value our consultative relationship with the University’s Academic Senate, which has its own faculty code of conduct and bylaws. Although UC adopted a framework establishing timelines and procedures for some parts of the faculty disciplinary process, Privilege and Tenure proceedings – and any associated timeframes – are governed by the faculty bylaws and associated procedures, which can only be changed by the Academic Senate. We have sought to fully engage the Senate in our SVSH efforts, including through the Joint Committee of the Administration and Academic Senate in 2015. More recently, I asked the Senate to provide recommendations on how to define a reasonably prompt timeframe to complete the Privilege and Tenure process. Such a timeframe would address the concerns previously identified by my office, which are now echoed in CSA’s findings.
- Better University procedures and more resources have led to an encouraging rise in the number of SVSH complaints. I am pleased your audit recognized that UC’s improvements have resulted in increased reporting. Campuses have significantly improved their ability to track the complaints they receive. We believe more people have come forward with concerns because of our systemwide improvements: mandatory education and training for employees and students, additional Title IX staff on each campus, and a more robust SVSH policy that requires “responsible employees” to notify their Title IX offices of any complaints. The increased number of reports also reflects the campus communities’ greater trust in the Title IX offices, trust essential for their continued successful operations and earned through their significant work.
- The creation of a systemwide Title IX office marks an important step toward further strength and consistency. My office established the first systemwide Title IX coordinator position in February 2017 and directed that campus Title IX officers report to this office, as well as to their campus leadership. The office is in charge of implementing the SVSH policy and related procedures and best practices across UC campuses. In a very short time, this office has provided strong guidance enabling UC to develop fundamental systemwide procedures, streamline processes, clarify policy and improve consistency. We intend to continue that progress through this critical component of UC’s response to SVSH, and CSA’s recommendation for a strategic plan will help provide this office a clear direction for its future efforts.
- UC has taken many other measures to strengthen its efforts to combat SVSH in our community. In addition to the improvements described above, UC has taken many additional proactive steps since 2014, including requiring each campus to have both a confidential advocacy office to support individuals who have experienced SVSH, and a respondent services coordinator to assist students alleged to have engaged in SVSH. We have implemented mandatory systemwide SVSH education for students, faculty, and staff, and have established a response team on each campus to ensure responses to all reports are prompt, equitable, and trauma-informed. We have formed a systemwide peer review committee to assess and approve all sanctions that involve a senior University leader, appointed a committee to recommend improvements in responding to SVSH complaints against staff, and established a student advisory board to advise the systemwide Title IX office on prevention and response.
UC understands the need for a strong stance against sexual violence and sexual harassment, meaningful efforts at prevention, and fair and timely processes for addressing complaints. To that end, the University has made great, proactive strides in improving its response to SVSH issues. We appreciate the time CSA has taken to identify ways for us to build upon our momentum and progress. We will continue to uphold our commitment to ensure a safe and secure environment for all members of the UC community.
Yours very truly,