By Eliza Partika
In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the University of California’s first system-wide Title IX Coordinator, Kathleen Salvaty, held a press conference with all nine UC campuses to discuss her responsibilities and spread awareness of campus resources.
The University of California appointed Kathleen Salvaty, former Title IX officer at UCLA, as the UC’s first system-wide Title IX Coordinator in January. As Title IX Coordinator, Salvaty will be responsible for overseeing Title IX officers at all nine UC campuses. Salvaty’s main goals as Title IX Coordinator are maintaining strong, consistent and fair processes in terms of preventing and responding to cases of sexual violence and harassment, and improving prevention education at all the UC campuses.
“Ultimately, our goal is culture change,” said Salvaty, noting that this includes continuing bystander education.
“I am really hoping to hear from the students themselves about how they can be active bystanders and how they want to increase discussion and awareness in this area,” she said.
There have been a number of improvements already implemented, including a task force updated from the one created by the President’s Office in 2014, which is now primarily in charge of student issues. That task force has issued recommendations that have already been applied to UC campuses, which Salvaty said includes a “new model” for all the UC campuses to investigate and adjudicate students in a uniform manner, as well as new ways to approach, investigate, and adjudicate faculty and staff cases of sexual assault and misconduct.
Salvaty said she always reminds students of the availability of the CARE office on every UC campus, where advocates assist students in healing after an assault with counseling and wellness programs and safety planning. They also make sure students know their rights as a complainant — someone filing an incident of sexual assault or misconduct or other harassment issues like stalking — and guide students through the process of reporting either to the police or the University if they wish to do so. CARE advocates work exclusively and confidentially with students and community members who have experienced sexual violence, assault, or stalking.
“A student who walks into the CARE office can go to a CARE advocate without putting the University on notice, without triggering any kind of University response,” said Salvaty.
The Title IX office under Salvaty also works to keep those records as confidential as possible, but if a student accuses another student of assault or misconduct, for example, the disclosure would have to be shared with the student being accused.
In addition to the many resources open to student complainants on campus and the efforts of Ms. Salvaty to expand and expedite those resources, Salvaty and the President’s Task Force have created a new position of Respondent Services Coordinator for student respondents accused of sexual assault or misconduct, and are working to find an RSC who can serve faculty respondents. The goal of the RSC is to ensure a fair adjudication process for all respondents, and part of that is Salvaty’s work in ensuring they have thorough knowledge of the investigation and adjudication processes.
“I’m working with the campuses to ensure that our procedures consistently provide both complainant and respondent a full opportunity to be heard, and to present and respond to all relevant evidence. A fair process has to underlie every finding, and this serves both complainants and respondents.”
Part of Salvaty’s efforts in starting new programs to support respondents is to increase transparency in the adjudication process. When UC Berkeley’s student newspaper, The Daily Californian, released public records of allegations against UC faculty members on Feb. 28, however, Salvaty was conflicted. She considers increased transparency positive, but notes that releasing such records is ultimately very challenging, as the Title IX office must balance the privacy of the complainants and respondents as well as maintain the integrity of the investigation. However, Salvaty did say that transparency and holding the Title IX office accountable is “certainly something we’re thinking about.”
In response to The Daily Californian’s release of public records, Salvaty said that some improvements which the Task Force is now implementing, such as a mandatory sexual assault and harassment training for faculty, could have changed the outcome of each of the cases. In regards to positive changes in sexual assault rates on campus she said, “At least at the outset, we may see reporting of sexual assault increase as community members become aware of their rights. In terms of actual sexual assault rates [versus reported sexual assaults], all of our efforts are aimed at preventing sexual assault.”
In her role as the first system-wide Title IX Coordinator, Salvaty hopes to foster an environment that is fair and equitable to all students.