Campus, federal officials reach agreement closing sexual misconduct investigation

UC Berkeley has entered into a Resolution Agreement with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR). For the last four years, OCR has been reviewing the campus’s policies, processes and case outcomes regarding sexual violence and sexual harassment and this agreement brings the investigation to a close.

UC Berkeley officials released the Resolution Agreement to the public today.

The OCR investigation began in March 2014 with a focus on cases from 2011-2014 but also including a review of some documents or cases through 2017. Title IX is the federal law that prohibits all forms of sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding.

Chancellor Carol Christ

Chancellor Carol Christ (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

“We want to thank the Office for Civil Rights for its comprehensive and careful review of our policies and practices,” said Chancellor Carol. T. Christ. “Over the last several years, the campus has made profound changes to its policies, processes and services, and we remain committed to doing more to improve our processes and  ensure a safe and supportive environment for our campus community.”

The OCR investigation entailed a review of more than 200 case files, of which they outlined compliance concerns regarding approximately 12 cases. The university will make policy changes at the systemwide level, ensure ongoing training for specific groups on campus and review several cases to ensure that an equitable response was provided.

Under the Resolution Agreement, which calls for a monitoring period of two years, the university agrees, among other things, to:

  • Revise the UC systemwide alternative resolution processes that allow the Title IX office to resolve certain cases without a formal investigation. The new policy will state that this process must be reasonably prompt and agreed to by the complainant and respondent.
  • Provide prevention information and education for graduate students (this has been underway for several years for graduate students and undergraduates and will continue).
  • Provide prevention information and education to faculty (this has been underway for several years and will continue) as well as the faculty peer review committee members who review cases on faculty sexual misconduct (this is already underway and will continue).
  • Review eight prior cases identified by OCR to ensure that an equitable process occurred.

Under the Resolution Agreement OCR will also review all formal Title IX investigations involving faculty or staff that are referred for discipline following the university’s implementation of its revised sexual harassment and sexual violence policies and procedures.

The federal investigation began after OCR received a group complaint from UC Berkeley students and other individuals. UC Berkeley is among hundreds of colleges and universities under federal investigation and many students at universities across the country voiced similar concerns and put a spotlight on sexual harassment and violence.

National attention on this issue has grown to include discussions of sexual misconduct in other institutions, workplaces and environments.

UC Berkeley and many other colleges and universities have increased attention and resources dedicated to this social problem while also making policy changes as the laws, regulations and guidance regarding sexual violence and sexual harassment matters have changed over the years.

Sharon Inkelas

Special Faculty Adviser to the Chancellor on Sexual Violence/Sexual Harassment Sharon Inkelas (UC Berkeley photo by Hulda Nelson)

Indeed, many changes have occurred across the University of California system to ensure consistency in policies and processes across UC campuses. For example, as of January 2016, all UC campuses follow an adjudication model for cases involving a student responding to allegations of sexual violence and sexual harassment that includes clear guidelines for disciplinary sanctions. UC Berkeley officials have expanded confidential support services for survivors, and established a new center, the PATH to Care Center, dedicated to prevention efforts and survivor support; provided more staff resources to the Title IX office and the Center for Student Conduct; and expanded prevention and education programs required for faculty, students and staff.

In addition, the campus created the position of Special Faculty Adviser to the Chancellor on Sexual Violence/Sexual Harassment, which supports campuswide sexual misconduct prevention and response efforts. Sharon Inkelas, who began work in that role this school year, noted the important and courageous work of those UC Berkeley student activists who came forward in 2013 and in the years after, to share their painful stories and, in doing so, helped to spark a national discussion of sexual violence and sexual harassment.

During that same time period, Inkelas noted, campus and UC leaders were creating new policies and looking at new ways to strengthen prevention and response efforts overall.

“We often say that when it comes to addressing sexual violence and harassment, we are all in this together,“ said Inkelas, “and that spirit of working on these issues together as a community will serve us well.”

UC Berkeley officials continue to work closely with federal, state and other agencies to assess and improve policies, processes and services around sexual misconduct prevention and response. For more on the Office for Civil Rights report, including access to report documents, go to complianceresponse.berkeley.edu.