UC President Janet Napolitano’s task force on sexual assault and sexual violence recently presented its findings along with seven specific recommendations to the Board of Regents at its bi-monthly meeting last Wednesday.
Napolitano created the 29-member task force in June to address sexual assault on UC campuses and to ensure that measures each campus take to prevent and respond to sexual assault are consistent across the system. Some of the recommendations will be implemented by mid-2015, a timeline to be further addressed in the next phase of the task force’s work.
The task force’s first recommendation called for the creation of a consistent “response team model” at all campuses with separate teams focusing on reporting and prevention education, aimed at resolving inconsistencies in the ways different campuses approach sexual assault response and prevention.
Speaking on this recommendation, UC Office of the President spokesperson Brooke Converse said the differences between campuses are due to the UC system’s history of “supporting individual cultures on each campus.”
“In the case of responding and preventing sexual assault and sexual violence, the President, Regents, and Task Force felt that having common principles, identical names, and consistent operations on all campuses would strengthen students’ ability to locate and utilize services when they most need them,” Converse said in an email.
In her comments to the Regents last Wednesday on the first recommendation, task force leader Sheryl Vacca said that while response teams exist at each campus, they function differently across the system. The point of the first recommendation is to ensure consistency system-wide, she said.
“It’s not that we did not have response teams on each campus … it’s that the response teams actually function in different ways across the organization and they aren’t necessarily known,” Vacca said.
On the second recommendation, which calls for system-wide standardization of investigation and adjudication procedures, Vacca said the recommendation also aimed to resolve campus-to-campus inconsistencies.
“We do have different practices on our campuses related to adjudication, in no way do we want to imply that there isn’t something that’s existing,” Vacca said, “the issue again is the fragmentation and the differences that happen between the campuses.”
During the meeting Napolitano said that one of the difficulties in comparing one campus to another in regard to sexual assault response practices is that each campus tends to call “the same things by different names.”
“It’s difficult to measure, system-wide, what we are doing and how we are doing in terms of metrics,” Napolitano said. “What we’re trying to do here is have a common vocabulary across the campuses, so that when we have to look at the whole system we’re measuring apples to apples and oranges to oranges.”
According to Vacca, the “independent and confidential” advocacy office called for in the fifth recommendation would be separate from the reporting and adjudication aspects of case management.
According to Jill Dunlap, task force member and director of UCSB’s Campus Advocacy Resources and Education program (CARE), which responds to the needs of students affected by sexual violence, UCSB already has several of the recommendations partially in place.
“UCSB is proud to have several of the current recommendations in place and is eager to work with stakeholders from across campus to implement the rest of the Task Force recommendations,” Dunlap said in an email.
According to Dunlap, the recommendations UCSB already practices include having an advocacy office on campus, called for in the fifth recommendation, and one existing sexual assault response team, fulfilling part of the first recommendation, which called for two teams. Dunlap also cited UCSB’s Gaucho FYI, a mandatory education program for new students, and the CARE program’s education and training efforts as examples of how the university meets parts of the third recommendation, which called for mandatory sexual assault education targeting various campus constituencies, including students and staff.
Dunlap also said the task force envisions that the recommendations will be implemented through a “campus-wide effort” including police departments, advocacy offices, Title IX offices and Judicial Affairs offices, among others.
UCSB alumna Myra Crimmel, who recently filed both Title IX and Clery Act complaints against the university, said she praised the task force efforts but expressed doubt at their present effectiveness within the university.
“It’s a step in the right direction but I really don’t trust the university,” Crimmel said in an email. “They say what they need to in order to protect their image, but actions speak louder than words. Until I hear personally from survivors that they did what they are supposed to do for the safety of their students, then my opinion may start to change.”
The task force will continue its work in what it calls “Phase II” which began after last week’s Regents meeting. According to the task force’s report on recommendations, Phase II will address the implementation of the recommendations throughout the system as well as integrating the needs of staff and faculty into the recommendations. The task force will also remain open to additional recommendations.
This story appeared on page 6 of Thursday, September 25, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.