California commission recommends sweeping reforms to campus sexual harassment policies

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The California Assembly Higher Education Commission issued a Report and recommendations Thursday on how to address sexual harassment and discrimination across the University of California, California State University and community college systems.

The report noted shortcomings and political constraints in the state’s public higher education systems and highlighted a “deep level of mistrust” in universities. Among its recommendations: hold campus executives more accountable for addressing sex discrimination on campus, and create independent civil rights offices for each system that would include the Title IX coordinator and deputy coordinator.

Each system’s office will be independent of the Title IX offices on the various campuses of the University of California, California State University, and community college systems and will report directly to the governing boards.

The committee’s work and recommendations are in response to years of mishandling of sexual harassment and other issues in the California State University system that led to the resignation of former Chancellor Joseph I. Castro. Reports from the law firm Cozen O’Connor and the California Sate Auditor last year found that CSU lacks the resources to implement its Title IX care and compliance responsibilities, adequate prevention and education infrastructure, and has a glaring trust gap with students, faculty and staff.

Each new system office will be responsible for creating and adopting a comprehensive nondiscrimination policy for the entire system, including procedures for how to handle complaints related to Title IX and the California Gender Equity in Education Act.

Each office will handle complaints against the campus president, chancellor, or CEO. It will also provide training and guidance on best practices to Title IX offices located on campus or in the region; Develop a preventive education strategy including bystander prevention, policy awareness, and assault prevention training.

The legislative committee called on the state to support higher education systems’ efforts to prevent sex discrimination on campus and recommended an oversight hearing for the Senate and Assembly budget subcommittees on education finance to determine implementation costs.

“The establishment of system-wide civil rights offices and many of the campus recommendations in the report will come from the state’s general fund,” Mike Fung, president of the Higher Education Association, said in a statement to The Bee. “While we face a large budget deficit this year, and developing recommendations may be expensive, anything that requires fundamental change is expensive, and the alternative is a cost I am not willing to bear.”

The committee’s 31-page report also noted that none of the higher education systems included a review of campus leaders’ plans to address sexual harassment and discrimination as part of the performance evaluation process.

The University of California, California State University, and community colleges recommended that each campus leader’s action plan to prevent and address sex-based discrimination on campus should be annually evaluated, and that the evaluation be available for public comment and included in performance and salary evaluations.

At the campus level, the committee recommended that each UCLA and CSU school have a Title IX office staffed by a Title IX coordinator, deputy coordinator, case manager, investigator, preventive education coordinator and administrative assistant, and that each community campus have a Title IX office staffed by a deputy coordinator Preventive education coordinator. Each community college district will have a Title IX coordinator, a case manager, and one investigator for each campus in the district to assist the campus offices.

The staff of each Title IX office has no responsibilities other than preventing and handling complaints of sex discrimination.

At Fresno State, the current Title IX office directory lists a coordinator, a deputy coordinator who also serves as the director of student housing, an administrative assistant and two staff members.

The State Center Community College District has a Title IX coordinator and four investigators, according to a district spokesperson. At the campus level, Fresno City College has a Title IX coordinator and six investigators, Clovis Community College has a coordinator and four investigators, Ridley College has a coordinator and eight investigators, and Madera Community College has a coordinator and three investigators.

The committee also addressed issues that have eroded trust at 149 campuses across the state (10 in the University of California system, 23 at California State University, and 116 at community colleges) including differing grievance procedures across systems, monetary settlements with violators and policies. Regulating privacy rights for university administrators.

Retreat rights provide faculty members who relinquish their position to assume administrative positions such as president, provost, or provost the ability to return to a faculty position.

Castro, the former Fresno State president, resigned as CSU chancellor in 2022 and exercised recusal rights at Cal Poly’s Orfaalia College of Business.

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