Despite years of warnings, and efforts at improvement, the University of California is still failing students who complain of sexual harassment, according to a new report from the California State Auditor.
The report, released Thursday, focuses on UC's response to sexual harassment complaints made by students that involve faculty and staff.
The auditor visited three campuses — Berkeley, Los Angeles and Davis — and found the schools have at times failed to inform students of their rights, taken too long to complete investigations and meted out inconsistent and inadequate discipline, which has sometimes resulted in repeat sexual harassment.
Between 2014 and 2016 the number of sexual harassment complaints made by students against faculty and staff has doubled, from 100 to 205, according to the auditor's analysis of UC data. The increase is largely a result of efforts by UC to increase outreach to students and improve reporting processes.
Despite these efforts, the new report concludes more must be done.
In a letter responding to the report, UC President Janet Napolitano highlighted the university's efforts to improve the handling of these complaints, and pointed out that some changes made by UC were not yet in place during the auditor's review.
The report finds all three campuses took much longer to discipline members of the Academic Senate, including tenured faculty, than other faculty and staff. On average, it took 43 days for staff to get disciplined, while it took 220 days for tenured faculty, according to the auditor.
The report also finds the three campuses disciplined faculty accused of repeated misconduct inconsistently. The same offense for instance, might result in a negotiated agreement to follow school policy in one instance and a dismissal in another.
Between 2008 and 2017, the report finds UC paid out almost $4.5 million in 20 settlements related to sexual harassment complaints. The auditor found the settlements were reasonable.
State Auditor Elaine M. Howle recommended UC give the system-wide Title IX office created last year greater authority to set policies and hold campuses accountable for following them. She recommended setting clear time frames for handling cases involving faculty and set policies for ensuring both students making complaints and those accused know their rights.
She also encouraged UC to make discipline more consistent and effective by requiring university officials to have campus Title IX coordinators weigh in on appropriate discipline.
In her response to State Auditor Howle, Napolitano accepted those recommendations and said UC is committed to implementing them.
This is the latest in a series of reviews of UC's sexual harassment policies conducted since 2014, including multiple internal reviews by UC and a four-year investigation by the US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights that resulted in a resolution agreement with the university system earlier this year.