latest news Widespread flaws found in CSU’s handling of sexual misconduct cases

An outside report released Wednesday delivered a sweeping indictment of California State University’s handling of sexual misconduct cases and recommended sweeping reforms to improve accountability in the largest four-year public university system. from the country.

The law firm Cozen O’Connor’s report, presented at a meeting of the CSU board of directors, revealed that the chancellor’s office is not tracking cases of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct across the board. system. He identified flaws in the way campuses collect data, widespread mistrust among students and employees about how wrongdoing is handled, and a low number of investigations — the majority of which never result in a resolution. formal resolution.

The report was ordered by administrators last year after the resignation of former Chancellor Joseph I. Castro, who was embroiled in controversy over his handling of reports of sexual harassment and retaliation against a senior administrator when he was president of Fresno State.

Since then, The Times investigations have revealed inconsistencies in how reports of sexual misconduct are handled by system officials at 23 campuses and detailed how reports of wrongdoing against key administrators have not made investigated by school officials and senior administrators from the Chancellor’s office in Long Beach. .

Acting California State System Chancellor Jolene Koester acknowledged after Cozen O’Connor’s findings were presented that the system had “failed” in how officials responded to reports of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and retaliation.

“A lot of these report findings are hard to hear,” she said, adding that solving the issues “is going to be uncomfortable.”

Cozen O’Connor said he visited each of the campuses and received feedback from nearly 18,000 students, staff, administrators and faculty across the California state system.

A final version of the report, along with findings for each campus, will be released in June. Recommendations presented to administrators include a radical change in the role of the Chancellor’s office, concluding that it needs to do a better job of following up on misconduct reports to spot trends and breakdowns in data collection. The report also called for the creation of a pool of trained investigators who can assist campus staff, many of whom are overwhelmed with multiple tasks and unable to thoroughly investigate cases.

One of the main concerns was how campuses collect data on sexual harassment and sexual misconduct that is used to create annual public reports.

“We saw incredibly rambling and frankly unreliable findings,” said Gina Maisto Smith, one of the attorneys who led the review of the campus reports.

CSU has so far paid more than $477.00 to the law firm Cozen O’Connor for work on 10 campuses and the Chancellor’s Office.

A Times analysis of CSU records found that officials investigated about 3% of the more than 2,600 reports of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct received last year on the 23-campus network for the school year 2021-22. The reports are made under Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination.

CSU records show several reasons why investigations were not conducted: some cases were informally resolved before an investigation through educational training, suspensions, terminations and expulsions agreed to by the person accused of wrongdoing and those who made reports; in hundreds of cases, students and staff have opted for help outside of an investigation, such as referrals to a victim advocate or counsellor.

Some campuses told the Times the data did not accurately reflect the number of investigations and the Chancellor’s Office said a handful of campuses reported additional data “that created inconsistencies”.

“The system-wide Title IX Office is making significant changes to its annual report investigation process to minimize the risk of inconsistencies,” said CSU spokeswoman Amy Bentley-Smith. . “The results of the investigation do not reflect ongoing investigations, nor do they capture less formal investigations conducted by the campus Title IX office that do not require an investigation in accordance with our policy.”

The Times’ analysis of campus records found that in more than 1,000 cases, alleged victims in misconduct reports did not respond to subsequent contact. In these cases, the records do not specify how officials attempted to connect with people, or how many attempts were made before concluding that a student or employee did not want to pursue an investigation or needed a other help.

In recent interviews with The Times, students, alumni, and current and former employees expressed distrust of their campuses’ ability to protect them from retaliation or damage to their reputation.

Those who complied with a survey were not always happy with the outcome.

Melanie Mendoza Gasca, 20, an English student at Cal State LA, said the Times’ findings of misconduct investigations were troubling.

“I just can’t believe this is the reality of our justice system in our schools,” she said. ” It has to change. This is unacceptable.”

Gasca said she filed a sexual misconduct complaint but declined to discuss it because campus officials told her it was confidential.

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