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Audit Faults University Of California Sex Misconduct Process

Tony Webster / Flickr
 

Tony Webster / Flickr

Sophia Bollag, Associated Press

UPDATED 3:14 p.m.

(AP) — University of California administrators failed to address sexual misconduct complaints in a timely manner and did not discipline faculty swiftly, state auditors said Thursday.

In a review of how sexual harassment complaints were handled at campuses in Berkeley, Los Angeles and Davis, auditors found some people accused of misconduct continued to sexually harass others after they were disciplined ineffectively.

UC President Janet Napolitano told auditors in a response letter that the system accepts their recommendations and is working to improve its sexual misconduct process.

State auditor Elaine Howle acknowledged the university system was aware of the problems, but said it needs to do more to correct the situation.

The review, which examined a decade of cases, found staff was disciplined in 43 days on average, compared to 220 days for tenured faculty. The campuses often exceeded investigation timelines without approval and didn't adequately inform involved parties.

Auditors also found campuses didn't effectively review complaint data to identify and address trends.

Napolitano pointed to the system's hiring of a Title IX coordinator to oversee the misconduct process across all UC campuses and other reforms made in recent years.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination by universities that receive federal funding, requires that schools act to prevent harassment and resolve misconduct complaints fairly and promptly.

The audit comes after a trove of files released in 2017 by the UC system showed campuses dispensed discipline inconsistently in response to misconduct complaints.

The files covered 112 cases from 2013 through mid-2016. Napolitano's office said faculty accounted for a quarter of the employees found to have violated sexual misconduct policies but declined to identify those cases.

The Associated Press was able to verify at least 21 of the cases involving faculty. In several, rumors about the accused swirled for years before anything was done. The AP review also found senior faculty often were allowed to retire or step away from duties and retain their pensions rather than face punishment, while staff members were fired or punished.

Auditors recommended the UC system establish timelines for disciplining faculty.

The audit found campuses used an informal process, which typically doesn't result in discipline and the accused's behavior is addressed through counseling twice as often as the formal process, which involves an investigation.

It found administrators often did not have consent from both parties before using an informal process. The review also found inconsistent discipline in comparable cases of faculty misconduct.

The auditors said an informal process should be used only if both accusers and respondents agree.

"UC understands the need for a strong stance against sexual violence and sexual harassment, meaningful efforts at prevention, and fair and timely processes for addressing complaints," Napolitano wrote in her response to the audit. "To that end, the University has made great, proactive strides."

Much of the data auditors reviewed predates significant reforms to the complaint process in recent years, said Suzanne Taylor, UC's interim system wide Title IX coordinator. Although the system still has work to do, Taylor said many of the changes already made will improve the problems auditors raised.

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