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University of California President Janet Napolitano announced the formation of a system-wide task force to address sexual assault and sexual violence on campus this past Friday in an effort to make the UC a national leader in combating sexual assault on university campuses.
The announcement comes several months after the UC Office of the President issued an update in March to the university’s sexual assault and sexual harassment policy, made in compliance with the 2013 federal reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The task force will oversee efforts made system-wide to prevent sexual violence and will allow various UC campuses to share effective practices in regard to sexual assault prevention, response and education.
According to UCOP spokesperson Dianne Klein, the formation of the task force was not mandated by the policy update, but came directly from Napolitano.
“Sexual violence is a serious crime that we will never tolerate,” Napolitano said in a statement. “The mission of this new task force is to continue to review and improve our efforts to make sure the University of California employs innovative, evidence-based and consistent practices across the system.”
The task force is comprised of 23 individuals from nine undergraduate campuses and UCOP, — including three UC Regents — and will meet via teleconference every two to three weeks and twice a month in person in July and September. A report regarding the task force will be presented to the Regents during the upcoming July 16-17 meeting.
According to Ricardo Alcaino, Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity & Sexual Harassment, while each UC campus is unique and has different needs to consider when responding to sexual assault, some standardization throughout the UC system is “still feasible.”
“Having some minimum requirements around education for incoming students, ongoing education throughout a student’s time on any campus, and on-campus advocates for survivors could be some areas where campuses could be held to the same standards,” Alcaino said in an email.
The task force could also create “meaningful change” if it lead to the establishment of some standardization of guidelines for sexual assault response for students, staff and faculty, according to Alcaino.
“There simply cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach to this work,” Alcaino said in an email, “but having resources that campuses can share and use is a reasonable goal for the Task Force.”
According to Jill Dunlap, director of Campus Advocacy, Resources and Education and Women’s Center programs, UCSB’s GauchoFYI program is a good example of a practice that could be shared with other campuses via the task force.
“[It] is a stellar example of collaboration among different departments, including the CARE program,” Dunlap said in an email. “We think requiring first-year and transfer students to go through comprehensive, in-person alcohol and sexual violence prevention programming within their first six weeks of school is important.”
Alcaino also said the collaboration between CARE and the Office of Equal Opportunity & Sexual Harassment has “proven to be an effective model for the [UC] system to emulate.”
Savannah Badalich, a fourth-year international development studies major at UCLA and one of two undergraduate students on the task force, said despite her excitement over the “freaking amazing” formation of the task force, more student representation is needed.
“There should be more students,” Badalich said. “I was kind of hoping that there would be one [student representative] from each school … this is a student issue, there should be a student majority on that task force.”
Bailey Loverin, third-year literature major and Associated Students Student Advocate General, also said there should be more student involvement with the task force.
“I’m also concerned about the apparent lack of student feedback on this task force … [four] student voices is not enough here. The UC system has over 200,000 students. You can’t simplify that to [four] representatives,” Loverin said in an email. “I’d like to see at least two reps from each school, preferably representatives nominated by their student body.”
In regard to the number of student voices on the task force, Klein affirmed that students are represented and said for any task force to be effective it “can’t be too large,” although she could not comment on the how the members of the task force were selected.
Badalich also said she hopes the task force will recommend additional funding, particularly for mental health resources for sexual assault survivors.
“What students need are resources, especially mental health resources … that is stuff that requires money,” Badalich said. “That’s sort of the factor. You can say all you want in support of a cause, but if you don’t give money towards it, it doesn’t mean crap. So we’ll see, I hope one of the recommendations will be giving funding.”
A version of this story appeared on page 3 of Wednesday, June 25, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
[Correction: A previous version of this article identified Jill Dunlap as the director of the Women's Center for Sexual and Gender Equality. That is incorrect. Dunlap is actually the director of Women's Center Programs with the department of Women, Gender and Sexual Equity within the Division of Student Affairs.]