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UCOP requests student input to sexual assault policy changes

The University of California Office of the President (UCOP) is currently asking for student input on new revisions made to the Presidential Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence.

The updates to the policy are coming  amid waves of institutional changes to not only the policy, response and advocacy for survivors and perpetrators within the UC community.

Official review of the policy began in 2013, and the revisions reflected concerns from the broader UC community as well as the president’s task force formed to reform the university’s sexual assault policy.

Last July, UC President Janet Napolitano created a task force to reform the university’s sexual assault policies comprising of student, faculty and staff representatives from various UCs as well as representatives from UCOP. The task force met regularly with the objectives of solidifying a best practices model to addressing and responding to sexual violence on campuses, as well as implementing this model system-wide.

The task force responds to every aspect of prevention, response, policy and advocacy surrounding sexual violence, including mandating an office modeled off UCI’s Campus Assaults Resources Education (CARE) office. How to develop, implement and sustain the office, as well as instructions on forming peer education programs and responding to sexual violence incidents are all included in the policy’s revisions.

The comprehensive policy clearly defines various key terms necessary to understanding sexual violence policy, ranging from “respondent” to “trauma-informed” and  “retaliation.” Defining key words as well as including the ways they can be understood within the context of sexual violence allows the policy to be understood by any person, no matter how versed on policy.

The policy also outlines compliance responsibilities for UC administrators and students alike, as well as newly adopted and required procedures. New mandates include how to create a case management team, or a coordinated community review team comprised of individuals from different UC departments who would review and collaborate their responses to cases of sexual violence.

Also outlined are elements that must be included in a conduct hearing process to ensure fair and timely compliance, such as timely notices of meetings as well as timely proceedings conducted by unbiased officials. Procedural revisions also inform readers about different options and aspects of reporting a sexual assault, including the specifics of a formal investigation. For survivors, the revisions are geared towards informing them of all their reporting options, both formal as well as informal.

The updates and revisions come amidst heightened publicity and demand from students across the country for universities to respond more justly and effective to rampant sexual violence on campuses. Experts have pointed to the UC’s efforts as good examples for universities, some with less-developed infrastructures, nationwide to establish their own comprehensive responses to sexual violence.