A federal investigation found several of the University of California, Berkeley’s policies when dealing with professor-on-student sexual assault and harassment are out of compliance with Title IX.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights reported U.C. Berkeley does not have an appropriate time frame for concluding a sexual harassment investigation.
If a professor is accused of sexual misconduct, faculty discipline will be imposed within three years of a complainant’s initial report of sexual harassment and/or sexual violence, Berkeley’s Faculty Framework states.
“As written, three years is not a reasonably prompt time frame for concluding an investigation and issuing an effective response for a complaint of sexual harassment and/or sexual violence,” the report says.
Saundra Schuster, co-founder and advisory board member of The Association of Title IX Administrators, agrees three years is not an adequate time frame for concluding a Title IX issue.
“You’re required by law to provide a prompt and effective response,” she said. “I think in no one's world would three years be prompt or effective.”
Schuster said the purpose for a prompt and effective response is to reduce as much of the impact on the victim as possible, and the institution comes to a conclusion in a reasonable time frame in order to minimize that impact.
U.C. Berkeley has entered an agreement with the Office for Civil Rights to revise some of its policies and address the report’s compliance concerns.
The agreement requires Berkeley to revise its policies and procedures so any decision regarding actions taken to prevent the recurrence of harassment, including sanctions, will be made in a reasonably prompt amount of time, the report says.
Among these changes, the university will provide ongoing training for faculty and members of the faculty peer review committees on the university’s revised policies and procedures and training for graduate students regarding definitions of sexual harassment and sexual violence, how to respond to notice of sexual harassment and sexual violence in their role as graduate student instructors and their rights and options with respect to making complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence.
Schuster outlined many different points that must be considered when evaluating a Title IX policy.
“It all starts with having a good policy. If you don’t have a good policy everything else goes to hell,” she said. After, it’s just a matter of following that policy and training faculty.
UNC-Chapel Hill’s Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office seeks to resolve a report within 55 days. However, this deadline can be extended under certain circumstances.
Some of the reasons for extension are to ensure the integrity and completeness of the investigation, to accommodate the availability of witnesses and to comply with a request by external law enforcement, Adrienne Allison, UNC's Title IX coordinator, said in a statement.
“Completing an investigation in a timely manner is important to maximize educational and/or employment opportunities and minimize the disruptive nature of the investigation and resolution,” Allison said. “Best efforts are made to complete the process in a timely manner by balancing principles of thoroughness and fundamental fairness with promptness.”
Schuster said UNC’s policy is adequate to issue a prompt and effective response.
"Fifty-five days is a reasonable period of time,” Schuster said. “If a case isn't too complex, they should be able to reach a resolution in 55 days or certainly complete an investigation in 55 days."
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