Violence Against Women Act Sparks UC-Wide Changes

The UC system will update its sexual harassment policies to improve campus safety. 

 

The University of California system has updated its Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence policy in response to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act passed by President Barack Obama in 2013.

Under the VAWA, educational facilities are required to adhere to specific regulations, including reporting incidents of dating violence, domestic violence and stalking, notifying victims of their rights and training of faculty and staff in rape prevention measures

The new UC policy was put into effect on Feb. 25, requiring campuses to report alleged assault crimes that may involve discrimination based on gender expression or sexual orientation.

In addition, victims need to be informed of the sanctions that could be applied to the accused, giving a more comprehensible definition of consent to sexual interaction under the new policy. Faculty, staff and students are also required to receive training for sexual harassment and rape prevention.

UC President Janet Napolitano assured the UC community that the new sexual harassment policy will be enforced effectively by students and staff at all UC campuses.

“We have no tolerance for sexual violence or harassment of any kind,” Napolitano announced in a March 7 UCnet article. “The university must, and will, hold itself to the highest standards, and I expect all of our locations to do everything possible to make everyone aware of these standards.”

A.S. Council Vice President of External Affairs Vanessa Garcia believes that updating the policy is insufficient and urged for an increase in security improvements to provide a safer environment for students on campus.

“As a student who has lived on campus, I can say that I have felt unsafe walking around campus late at night,” Garcia explained. “There are not enough lights in several parts of [our] campus and pathways are poorly illuminated. Administration and [the Student Academic Resource Center] need to be held accountable for the disgraceful lighting around campus.”

Several cases of sexual assault, including a Jan. 18 gang rape and two late February rape cases at UC Santa Barbara preceded the sexual harassment policy update.

In addition, federal complaints filed by over 31 students of UC Berkeley have compelled the U.S. Department of Education to initiate an investigation on the matter.

The complaints filed against UC Berkeley accuse officials of dissuading students from reporting assaults, neglecting to inform them of their rights and carrying out bias review processes that favor the rights of the accused.

Other public universities — such as UCLA, Chico State University and San Diego State University — have undergone similar allegations from their students and are currently being investigated as well.

Sofie Karasek, a junior at UC Berkeley who filed a complaint, expressed her doubt about the changes being implemented.

“In terms of impacting the culture on campus and changing the way cases are adjudicated, I don’t think it’s going to do much of anything,” Karasek said in a March 7 Los Angeles Times article.

Currently, UCSD will begin implementing the new policy by providing orientation programs to train and inform students and staff of their new responsibilities to ensure the safety of students.

Life Theatre — an interactive training service — and the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination will administer preventative programs on April 16 on campus and in Hillcrest. The programs will detail UCSD’s VAWA responsibilities.