Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill that will bolster transparency within the California State University system by mandating the CSU’s to publicly disclose results from investigations of sexual harassment cases.
Senate Bill 808, penned by state Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), was officially enacted Oct. 7 and will be implemented in 2024 following widespread criticism toward CSU officials for mismanagement of these incidents. The controversy has become relevant coinciding with the prevalence of sexual harassment complaints documented at campuses like Cal Poly Pomona, according to evidence from a recent audit.
The initial investigations conducted by the Los Angeles Times first brought mishandlings within the CSU system to light, spurring the drafting of the bill in February. Subsequent research by the California State Auditor validated these findings proving campus officials from numerous universities prematurely terminated investigations and neglected formal complaints toward high-ranking university personnel and students.
Assessment of this study also revealed breakdowns in the investigative processes culminated from the CSU chancellor’s office’s failure to mandate data tracking and analysis across its campuses.
Amidst growing concerns about campus safety and the handling of such sensitive cases, Dodd views the legislation as a stepping stone toward fostering accountability and restoring trust within the CSU system.
In a press release, he expressed gratitude for Newsom’s ratification of SB 808 and emphasized his commitment to cultivating a protective environment for students enrolled in these universities.
“As a grandparent and CSU graduate, I am committed to making sure students will feel safe and respected on our campuses,” Dodd said. “This new law ensures we put the culture and processes in place to make that happen.”
Per the directives imposed by the bill, universities in the CSU system must supply detailed findings from each investigation. This entails providing specificities including the length of time taken to start and complete investigations, the outcomes of hearings for sexual misconduct complaints, the number of these complaints and reports by campus (individually and collectively) and the number of appeals used along with its outcomes. The findings are also required to be submitted annually by Dec. 1 and published online afterward.
Dawnita Franklin, the Title IX coordinator at CPP, reiterated the significance of the bill’s implementation in establishing compliance with designated procedures for recording data.
“I definitely think it’s a step in the right direction for the transparency piece and the accountability,” Franklin said. “I don’t necessarily know if these things weren’t being handled or if they just weren’t being tracked properly, and this bill will now make us accountable to ensuring that, you know, we’re tracking and keeping accurate records and data.”
Franklin said the Title IX office has already been proactive in using many of these newly-installed measures before the bill was incorporated into binding legislation.
“It’s not anything that is causing any type of additional administrative burden on us,” Franklin said. “Those are the things that are pretty typical with Title IX matters, the information that they’re asking, so we have been tracking that information for quite a while now.”
She added the only change in the office’s reporting procedures is the stipulation to transmit findings to the CSU chancellor’s office, which she believes will be easy to handle since they’re accustomed to producing annual reports.
Despite the Title IX office’s familiarity with these transparency and accountability measures, Franklin admits it has been helpful in providing clarification for terms such as “chancellor’s office,” “final administrative decision,” “final investigative report” and “sexual harassment,” but affirmed that further education on them will be necessary.
“To help the students and faculty and staff and people outside of this work understand exactly what these terms mean, it’s really gonna require us to really get out there and to engage,” Franklin said.
This push for education related to sexual harassment mirrors the widespread intent to develop a culture of awareness and integrity within the CSU system surrounding these issues.
The office declined the request for a follow-up interview regarding methods for educational advancement on sexual misconduct, but Franklin has previously indicated the bill will champion the issues going forward.
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