California's public universities need to do a better job of educating students and staff members about campus sexual harassment and violence policies and then keeping students who bring complaints informed about the status of their cases, the state auditor said Thursday.
California State Auditor Elaine Howle concluded in a report requested by the Legislature that the four universities her office studied - UC Berkeley, UCLA, Cal State Chico and San Diego State - have "an adequate overall process'' for responding to individual incidents. The review covered the years 2009 to 2013, a period that included 302 cases that were serious enough to be reported to university police.
Howle said that while state and federal laws make clear that colleges and universities have specific responsibilities when it comes to protecting and punishing students, the four schools made "limited'' efforts to ensure that athletic coaches, dorm advisers and others staff members "who are likely to be the first point of contact'' received adequate training on what to do if a student reported being harassed or assaulted.
"By not ensuring that employees are sufficiently trained on responding to and reporting incidents of sexual harassment and sexual violence, the universities risk having their employees mishandle student reports of the incidents,'' the report stated.
Auditors also found that the universities had a spotty record when it came to informing students about their rights and grievance procedures. While state law requires them to post their sexual violence and harassment policies prominently on campus, none of the schools had the information displayed in places where they could be seen by large numbers of students or made a point of providing the information to new students upon their arrivals on campus, the report said.
The audit also faulted the universities for failing to keep students who brought complaints informed. Auditors reviewed 80 cases in detail and found that in 48 of them it was unclear whether the complaining students were ever notified of the outcome. In all but two of the cases, however, the auditors agreed that the complaints were resolved in a way "that appeared reasonable, given the facts.''
The schools have acknowledged the auditor's findings and say they plan to address the report's recommendations.