Six current and former UCSB students filed federal complaints against the university last Wednesday, citing violations of the Clery Act and Title IX in the way university administration handled their sexual assault cases.
The complaints allege that administration discouraged the reporting of sexual assault, did not appropriately sanction students admitting to sexually assaulting fellow students and created a hostile environment by allowing alleged assailants to remain in classes with their victims, among other violations. The complaints could result in a federal investigation of the university and steep financial penalties if Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Federal Student Aid (FSA) officials deem such action appropriate.
Colleges and universities are required to disclose information about crimes occurring on and around their campuses via the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, and Title IX is a federal statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity that receives federal funding. Both laws are enforced by the Department of Education.
The complaints were filed with the help of End Rape on Campus (EROC), a sexual assault survivor advocacy group of current and former college students, which assisted the UCSB students in drawing together their complaints based on both Title IX and the Clery Act.
According to EROC staff member Annie Clark, the Department of Education receives separate complaints pertaining to Title IX and the Clery Act. Clark also said that if the OCR finds a school in violation of Title IX they face what she described as an “all or nothing” penalty.
“There’s a nuclear option of revoking all federal funding or nothing, which basically means they sit down with the school and the school promises to do better,” Clark said. “There’s no real accountability there.”
For Clery Act violations, Clark said the Department of Education may levy a fine of up to $35,000 per violation.
Taking on the Crimmel Case
Lead complainant and recent UCSB graduate Myra Crimmel said her assault occurred on Sept. 8 of last year and that when she reported it to her crisis counselor at UCSB’s Campus Advocacy Resources and Education (CARE), as well as to Judicial Affairs, naming her assailant, she was initially told the evidence presented was so severe the university had an obligation to pursue her case.
According to CARE Director Jill Dunlap, CARE counselors assist those on campus impacted by sexual violence by supporting their decision whether or not to report the incident through official channels, as well as by accompanying the formation of a report and serving as a support person through subsequent processes.
“CARE advocates are available to support a survivor through any reporting process,” Dunlap said in an email, “including campus judicial processes, as well as criminal law enforcement proceedings.”
According to Crimmel, Judicial Affairs promised that the investigation of her case would take no more than 60 days to complete and assured her that this was university policy.
Moving forward with an investigation in November after receiving statements from Crimmel’s alleged assailant on the case, Judicial Affairs offered the accused the option of admitting to the assault and accepting university sanctions, — which would result in a minimum two quarter suspension — or denying the accusation and holding a university hearing, where the alleged assailant could risk expulsion, according to email correspondence provided by Crimmel between her and Judicial Affairs.
Trouble arises between Crimmel, CARE and Judicial Affairs
Shortly thereafter, Crimmel said she became aware that her alleged assailant had hired a lawyer but was assured by her CARE crisis counselor the lawyers could only serve an advisory role. After the attorneys got involved however, various meetings between her alleged assailant and Judicial Affairs were canceled, allowing the accused to “stonewall” the case by delaying a decision, Crimmel said.
“I expressed my need for the case to end in a timely manner, which the Code of Student Conduct promised me,” Crimmel stated in her complaint. “Instead, I was told ‘these things take time’ and that there was nothing I could do in the meantime. I was told that ‘the system is the way it is, you need to let it play out.’”
At this time Crimmel said Judicial Affairs assured her in December her alleged perpetrator would be kept from enrolling in future classes with her. Yet when she began class Winter quarter, long after the promised 60 day limit for case resolution, Crimmel found her alleged assailant attending one of her classes. Mid-way through last Winter quarter, Crimmel’s alleged assailant requested a hearing with Crimmel while she said she distressed over moving forward and risking her case getting dropped completely in the event she lost.
Crimmel also said a representative from Judicial Affairs and her crisis counselor at this point began discouraging her from going through with the hearing.
“[The Judicial Affairs officer] also told me … ‘I don’t want you to go through it’ and ‘It is so much work on our end.’ I felt helpless because my crisis counselor was my only ally and was unfamiliar with the adjudication process,” Crimmel stated in her complaint. “[The crisis counselor] told me that during her time of employment there, she has never seen a sexual assault case result in a hearing.”
Crimmel opted not to go through with the hearing.
Shortly thereafter, she said Judicial Affairs had contacted her father and informed him that Crimmel’s alleged assailant had refused to admit guilt and that neither the incident nor the sanctions would appear on the student’s transcript or criminal record.
According to correspondence between Crimmel and Judicial Affairs provided by Crimmel, her case was closed March 4, 2014 and her alleged assailant was permitted to take his Winter quarter finals before withdrawing from the university until Fall 2014, after Crimmel’s graduation, where he was allowed to attend on disciplinary probation.
“By refusing to accept responsibility and using his attorneys, he guaranteed that there would be no trace of what happened or why he temporarily left UCSB,” Crimmel stated in her complaint. “How will students be safe when a perpetrator can return to the campus after facing virtually no consequences other than some lost time and a quarter-long suspension?”
The Aftermath: Filing the Complaint
Director of Judicial Affairs Stephan Franklin said he could not offer comment on the complaint and that punishments for perpetrators of such cases vary considerably depending on individual circumstances.
The UCSB Office of Public Affairs also released a statement that said the university takes “students’ reports of sexual assault extremely seriously” and that they offer counseling, support and advocacy resources, as well as a “comprehensive adjudication process” to those impacted by sexual assault.
According to Dunlap, CARE interacts with students based on the “empowerment model,” designed to give students more control over their options after an assault. She also said CARE program staff are currently collaborating with the Office of Equal Opportunity & Sexual Harassment/Title IX Compliance to develop a faculty guide for “responding to disclosures from survivors of interpersonal violence.”
“It’s important that the student be in charge of their own recovery process,” Dunlap said in an email, “and CARE staff are here to support whatever decisions they make.”
According to a spokesperson with the Department of Education who wished to remain anonymous, the Office for Civil Rights does not confirm the receipt of complaints and “will inform the institution, the complainant and the public as appropriate.” A staffer with the Department of Education’s San Francisco Office, who also wished to remain anonymous, said the evaluation of Title IX complaints from the time the complaint is received to the notification of complaint investigation or dismissal usually takes 30 calendar days.
Kelty Kauffman, co-chair of campus sexual assault survivor advocacy group Take Back the Night, said the university must make strides to better combat sexual violence and provide sexual assault response resources that are swift, effective and accessible to students.
“You can do a Judicial Affairs complaint, but right now there’s no one on campus besides Take Back the Night and CARE who tells students that that is an available option,” third-year English and Feminist Studies double major Kauffman said. “Most students have no idea that that they can even do that, and if they do know that they can do that, they don’t know where to go. They don’t know who to talk to. They don’t know anything.”
According to Crimmel, the driving force motivating her to file the federal complaint is the hope that it will “ bring justice to those silenced by trauma.”
“I was victimized twice, both by my perpetrator and my university, but the silver lining is that I am now more strong and resilient,” Crimmel said in her complaint. “Going forward, prompt action must be taken against perpetrators of sexual assaults, and survivors must be treated with respect. What happens in Isla Vista does not stay here. Things must change.”
Editor-in-chief Carissa Quiambao contributed to this report.