Second-year student will file a complaint stating that the university violated her Title IX rights
Second-year Chican@ studies and history of public policy major Alejandra Melgoza plans to file a complaint against the university for violating her Title IX rights while dealing with her sexual assault case, which was first brought up to the Office of Judicial Affairs over a year ago on March 13, 2014.
Title IX is enforced by the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education and forbids any education program or activity which receives federal funds from discriminating on the basis of a person’s sex. Title IX is intended to end sex discrimination in all areas of education and has been applied to cases regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Melgoza’s sexual assault allegedly took place last year on Jan. 18, after which she filed for an investigation on Oct. 2014 after speaking to both Counseling and Psychology Services (C.A.P.S.) and Campus Advocacy Resource and Education (C.A.R.E.) in the Women’s Center about the assault.
Where Melgoza Says It Went Wrong
Melgoza said the reason she did not file for investigation until seven months after first approaching Judicial Affairs was because of their reaction to her case. She said she was discouraged by the Judicial Affairs officials who claimed that her case might just be about the perpetrator’s lack of performance during sex.
“The reason why I didn’t file the investigation on March 13 was because I was discouraged to file it because they told me that maybe it was just … bad sex … what the official had said was … ‘If he was drunk maybe he didn’t perform as well,’” Melgoza said.
Melgoza also said Judicial Affairs discouraged her by pointing out that she did not have the evidence to win a case and that the process to file it would be lengthy.
“They were saying, ‘Well it’s going to be a long process, where [there’s] not enough evidence, you’re not going to be able to win,’ and at that point I was very upset and angry… and at that point I was just like, ‘You know what, fine, I guess I won’t file it,’” Melgoza said.
After filing the investigation, Melgoza allegedly repeatedly asked Judicial Affairs to not allow her perpetrator to enter her workspace before they gave into her requests in November.
“Finally, at the end of November, they ended up getting him out of my job,” Melgoza said. “If I didn’t demand it then they probably wouldn’t have listened to me. They would have just given up.”
The Case Conclusions and Enforcement
Melgoza said it was decided by Judicial Affairs in January that she had enough evidence to file a charge against her perpetrator under Section 102.08 of the Student Code of Conduct, which allows campus regulations to apply to certain off-campus behaviors, including sexual assault.
“In January … I got a phone call from Judicial Affairs and they ended up telling me that, yes, there was enough evidence to file a charge of sexual assault which in the student code is code 102.08,” Melgoza said.
An email sent from Sexual Violence Conduct Committee (SVCC) Co-Chairperson Miles Ashlock to Acting Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Mary Jacob revealed the Committee met on Feb. 6 to hear the charges against Melgoza’s assailant and voted 3-0 that there was “sufficient evidence” that her alleged perpetrator was “responsible for sexually assaulting” Melgoza.
On March 2, Melgoza received the decision from Jacob that the alleged assailant would be suspended for the Spring and Summer quarters of 2015, meaning he would not take classes or be allowed on university property.
“I waited 15 days for the Vice Chancellor to make her decision … and in the first week of March I received a letter and an email saying that my perpetrator was suspended for spring of 2015 and summer of 2015,” Melgoza said.
The March email from Jacob stated the three-member Sexual Violence and Conduct Committee “recommended a two quarter suspension,” without explanation for how the punishment was determined to be appropriate for the crime. Jacob approved the verdict of the SVCC, finalizing the decision by writing, “I find that I concur with the Committee’s recommendation and therefore suspend you for two quarters,” the email read.
According to Melgoza, the alleged perpetrator was seen on campus by a friend in the first week of ring Quarter although she had the sanction in writing, indicating the Judicial Affairs was not enforcing the sanction on which they had decided.
“Third day of my spring quarter, week one, one of my best friends … told me that she had seen him on campus,” Melgoza said. “In writing it clearly says that he cannot be anywhere affiliated with UCSB … the administration needs to know how to enforce their sanctions.”
Melgoza said although she would like to discuss a change of policies with Judicial Affairs, she is uncomfortable and will not be dealing with them regarding her own case any longer. Melgoza said she will be filing the Title IX complaint because many students go through the same process with Judicial Affairs and do not see justice.
“I am done with Judicial Affairs. I would like to negotiate with them about policies and changes that need to be made but regarding my case I am not comfortable talking to them anymore,” Melgoza said. “I’m going to file Title IX because this is just an injustice and it happens to so many students.”
Melgoza said she felt disrespected by the university for their mishandling of her sexual assault case.
“I just felt completely not listened to and not respected by the institution as a whole because at the end of the day, I’ve been through every outlet possible … and I still haven’t had a result,” Melgoza said.
Fourth-year psychology major Soojin Ro said the sanction given to the perpetrator was not harsh enough and could not ensure that he does not sexually assault another person.
“I think that the consequence for him is too weak since suspension isn’t enough to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Ro said.
Ro also said however there are different degrees of sexual assault, and depending on the details of the crime there should be harsher or weaker punishments.
“If there is a first, second and third degree in murder, then sexual assault also has different degrees that relates to different punishments, so it depends on the details of the case,” Ro said.
Changes Can Occur
Melgoza said the only way change can occur in the system is through student pressure on the university to take action. She also added that this is difficult because it is a task that requires a lot of persistence.
“If enough students file enough complaints and if they put more pressure onto the university then the university has to make changes,” Melgoza said, “because unfortunately the university does not feel the pressure because it is such a hard topic that it is draining.”
According to Melgoza, it is vital that mental health professionals and more C.A.R.E. advocates on campus are made available on campus for students in need.
“Mental health is so important and we need to increase the amount of staff that we have in mental health because it is just very necessary- extremely necessary for students,” Melgoza said. “As well as more advocates in C.A.R.E. because only four advocates in C.A.R.E. is not enough for the amount of cases that are handled at UCSB.”
Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Jeanne Stanford has stated on the C.A.P.S. website that as a personal mission, she intends to make counseling easily accessible to any student in need of it, while also eliminating the shame some students feel when seeking counseling.
“One of my main goals is to make counseling available and accessible to all students,” Stanford stated. “I also strongly believe in erasing the stigma sometimes associated with seeking help so that students … know that counseling is indeed meant for all of us.”
According to Stanford, there are multiple campus groups that mean to help sexual assault survivors and assist student recovery from unhealthy romantic relationships.
“We have two healing after-sexual assault groups,” Stanford said. “And we also have a group called Empowering Us: Finding Wellness in Romantic Relationships, which has been a group where people can explore unhealthy romantic relationships that they’ve been in.”
Director of News and Media Relations for the Office of Public Affairs and Communications George Foulsham said in a press release that the university offers support services 24-hours a day, seven days a week through C.AR.E. He stated that C.A.R.E. can help students report misconduct through multiple options, including filing a complaint via Title IX, the police and Judicial Affairs.
“The university provides individuals with confidential advocacy services through C.A.R.E., our Advocate Office for Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Misconduct. These support services are available 24/7,” Foulsham stated in an email. “C.A.R.E. advocates can help students understand and access reporting options through Title IX, police and the Office of Judicial Affairs.”
Foulsham also said he hopes to continue discussion on concerns that have been raised to the attention of the university.
“We take concerns raised by our students extremely seriously and as such we look forward to having an opportunity to meet with our students involved in today’s action to continue to discuss their concerns in detail,” Foulsham said in an email.
According to Stanford, C.A.P.S. is an ally to the survivor community on campus. She wants students to know that C.A.P.S. provides services to help student heal after instances of sexual assault.
“C.A.P.S. is obviously an ally to the survivor community whether they’re male, female, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender,” Stanford said. “We do believe in helping students … We have healing after sexual assault groups here and that’s a kind of service that C.A.P.S. provides.”
A version of this article appeared on the page 4 of Thursday, April 16, 2015’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.