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Audit Finds SDSU Fails To Adequately Train Employees On Sexual Violence

CA State Auditor
Audit Finds SDSU Fails To Adequately Train Employees On Sexual Violence
Audit Finds SDSU Fails To Adequately Train Employees On Sexual Violence
GUESTS Margarita Fernandez, Spokeswoman, California State AuditorVerna Griffin-Tabor, CEO/Executive Director, Center for Community Solutions

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. How are California's universities doing in dealing with issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus? Not as well as they could, according to the results of a state audit. San Diego State University is one of the schools that the state says could do a better job. We will look at the findings and resources available to students on and off campus. I would like to welcome my guests, Margarita Fernandez, spokeswoman for the California State Auditor's office. MARGARITA FERNANDEZ: Thank you. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Verna Griffin-Tabor Is CEO and Executive Director of the Center for Community Solutions, which operates the only rape crisis center in San Diego. Verna, welcome. VERNA GRIFFIN-TABOR: Thank you, it is nice to be here. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We invited representatives of San Diego State University to participate in this discussion, we were told no one was available to join us. San Diego State set this a statement which reads in part: "we appreciate the opportunity this audit gave us to look at our policies and procedures. San Diego State University is committed to trading in educating our students, faculty, and staff about these issues, and appropriately managing reported incidents. There is always room for improvement." Margarita, remind us what prompted this state audit. MARGARITA FERNANDEZ: Any member of legislature can request an audit through the joint legislative audit committee. In this case someone requested an audit of the California public post secondary educational institutions compliance with title IX of the federal education amendment. Of course that is the amendment that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs and activities that receive federal funding. He requested the audit, the committee approved it, and it became a mandate for us. It his request, he did refer to the nine women from UC Berkeley that filed a complaint with the federal offices of civil rights in May 2013, claiming that civil rights under the act and title IX were violated by the campus. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So there is that connection to the federal investigation that is underway. What school did the state audit examine? MARGARITA FERNANDEZ: We looked at for schools. The request specifically asked us to take a look at UC Berkeley, and in addition to that, we looked at San Diego State University, California State University, Chico, and UC Los Angeles as well. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Why was San Diego State one of the campuses that was examined? MARGARITA FERNANDEZ: When we were trying to select which campuses to look at, we decided to check campuses that were North, South, to get a geographical sense. We also looked at statistics from various reports at each campus, each campus has to report to the federal government in regards to crimes committed on campus. Also we looked at student population. There are a variety of factors that we considered in deciding which of the three campuses we would look at in addition to UC Berkeley. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What does the audit tell us about how many sexual assaults were reported at the campus, and how do you get that information? MARGARITA FERNANDEZ: We discussed in the report, we looked at not just sexual assaults, we looked at student related sexual harassment or sexual violence complaints. What we found when we looked at the University is that each department in these various universities had data in different manner, we took a look at how many complaints were being made, and there were some complaints being handled by an office that oversees the student contact, and some that are filed by other offices and some filed even to the University Police Department, but sometimes the same complaint may be filed in one place, then another. Each of the departments are tracking the information differently, and it is tough to identify exactly how many were made. We did look at San Diego State University, and there were fifty. This is from 2013. There were fifty filed by the office that oversees the student contact. There was another thirteen that were handled or made by other offices, and seventy-three received by the University Police Department. There might have been a complaint filed in one place and also with the police departments, so it is really tough to tell the exact number. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So is that one of the areas that you would like to see schools tighten up on and get a little bit better at reporting? MARGARITA FERNANDEZ: It is. That is where we noted with all of the universities and we did make a recommendation to the universities that identify a better way of obtaining summary information and tracking information so they can better serve the student's. It also allow them to evaluate the data and see where they need to focus some attention so they can help shape the outreach or protection efforts. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What were some of the other main findings in the audit? MARGARITA FERNANDEZ: Pretty much across the board on many of these is that the training and education provided to the University employees, not all employees are receiving the training. We did find key roles with individuals in this reporting process, we do see additional training, but not all employees do. We were particularly looking at resident advisors and athletic coaches which may be the first contact because of the role, they should be receiving additional training, and they were not receiving sufficient training. The other thing was, the sexual harassment policy is not being provided to all employees each year. Or, they are not posting some of the policies in places where a large number of students can see them. So exactly like resident halls or athletic facilities, they are being posted in some places, they need to make sure that they are posting them where a large number of students are gathering. The other thing is, as far as education for incoming students, we felt that the education should be received at or near at the time that they first arrive on campus. That may be the time where students are at a higher risk of sexual assault, and in addition, some of them are receiving six weeks before or a couple of months before. Some of them were not ensuring students were not receiving the incoming education. There is a lot of education that needs to occur. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That me bring it Verna into our conversation. I want to get your findings in this report about a lack of adequate training about sexual misconduct at SDSU and other schools. VERNA GRIFFIN-TABOR: This is not surprising, because as a culture I do not think we do outreach and education enough. The incidence of sexual assault, the highest propensity is in the ages between eighteen and twenty-four. It would be an ideal place for universities and colleges to provide outreach and prevention. This violence is preventable. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What you think is a universities responsibility in stopping sexual misconduct on campus? VERNA GRIFFIN-TABOR: I think much of what was outlined in the audit, as far as intervening as quickly in education as possible, also making sure individuals and employees like resident advisors and coaches, because they may be the first place that students would turn when they have been violated. They may need that affirmation. Ill-informed employees may be well intended, but they may do more damage by victim blaming, making comments about the impact of reporting, when in fact the individual may want to report the sexual assault or sexual harassment. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Also, what came up in this audit if I am correct is an instant where it was not here to the person who had received that information whether it should go up the chain of command, so to speak. Is that something that happens somewhat regularly? VERNA GRIFFIN-TABOR: I believe so, and I believe that well-trained staff at SDSU and any university, sexual assault is a tough issue when it comes forward, and you are ill-equipped to deal with it and you do not know what to expect from a sexual assault survivor. It is also a support to employees to be well-trained, know resources, know how to respond. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: When there is an incident on a local college campus, how is the center for community solutions involved? VERNA GRIFFIN-TABOR: We are the first responders, when law enforcement is called to intervene for a sexual assault here locally, it is our job to meet them at the hospital and offer support through the court system, law enforcement, through that healing process, and that is what we are available to do. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Especially when you are dealing with a college aged victim, what do you hear from victims? How challenging is it to come forward? VERNA GRIFFIN-TABOR: It is very challenging, unwittingly copy as a culture tend to blame the victim, what was she wearing, what was he drinking, as opposed to how is it that the violence exists? It is about trusting their instincts, many times as a result of victim blaming, we see people go into a shallow, depression, posttraumatic stress. It is very difficult to come forward, and they are concerned that they may be blamed for a crime that they did not commit. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is there still a blur about what is and what is not considered sexual harassment? VERNA GRIFFIN-TABOR: Legally it is not blurred, but in the minds of individuals, again, going back to the audit and training staff and employees at universities is really important. The law is not blurred but the understanding of that is. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: In the audit, Margarita, there are some blanket recommendations that may fit well with all of the schools, but I wonder if you did any comparison, as in how did SDSU compared to all of the other colleges audited? MARGARITA FERNANDEZ: We took a look at all of the universities, and provided several tables in the report of what all of the campuses were doing. All of them did have some problems with education that they were providing, to employees and also to students, and like I said about the resident advisors and athletic coaches, that is something that we noted across the board as well. One thing we noted at San Diego State University, there were many deficiencies in educational content for incoming freshmen, and in fact, they do not provide comprehensive educational content on sexual violence to incoming students. Instead they provide only the limited information to students regarding sexual violence as a short verbal conversation, as part of the new student orientation. We found that the content of the discussion was insufficient. It also did not adequately notify students of Is resources, how to file a complaint with the university, and it even had information that stated that all complaints will be investigated by University police. This could intimidate some students. As a result, San Diego State risks discouraging students who have experienced in instant from filing a complaint. They developed a brochure title line that had a significant amount of important information, but it is not something that is distributed to new students doing orientation. Again, there is a risk to students being unaware of their ability to file a complaint. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Does a state have any enforcement authority when it comes to recommendations made by this report? MARGARITA FERNANDEZ: The legislature is receiving all of this information, and they can have informational hearings, they can discuss these issues with the universities during the deliberation process as well. There are some things they can do. There are differences in how the UC's operate and how the CSU's operate. There are some things they would have to have approved as well. We did make recommendations to the legislature that they amend state law to require universities to train all university employees annually on responding to and reporting sexual harassment, sexual violence, and to educate incoming students as close as possible to when they arrive on campus, and to also require them to post policies at additional prominent locations that the students are frequenting, which are the resident and athletic facilities. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We'll have to leave it there. Thank you both very much.

CA State Auditor Report On Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence
California State Auditor’s report on Title IX and Sexual Assault and Harassment at certain California universities
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A new report finds San Diego State and other universities failed to properly train faculty and staff and educate students on sexual harassment and sexual violence.

It's part of review by the California State Auditor.


According to the report San Diego State, University of California, Berkeley, UCLA and California State University Chico:

" not ensure that all faculty and staff are sufficiently trained on responding to and reporting student incidents of sexual harassment and sexual violence. Although staff involved in key roles of the incident-reporting process receive adequate training, certain other employees who are likely to be the first point of contact, such as resident advisors and athletic coaches, do not. 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."

While the audit found SDSU has an adequate overall process for responding to incidents of sexual harassment and sexual violence, the report said the university could do more to educate students on reporting options and what to expect regarding the complaint process.

"None of the four universities consistently complied with requirements in state law for distribution of policies to inform students and university employees of how to appropriately respond to and handle incidents of sexual violence and sexual harassment. "

For example, the report says SDSU doesn't ensure that all incoming students attend educational programs on sexual training. The training is part of freshman orientation but incoming students are not required to attend. UCLA and Chico State, on the other hand, place registration holds on those students who fail to complete the training.

The audit makes several recommendations including, additional university-required sexual harassment and sexual assault training for resident advisors, coaches, student athletes, fraternities and sororities.

It also suggests posting sexual harassment policies in prominent locations.


San Diego State is in the process of implementing a Sexual Violence Task Force

because it recognized the need for more coordination between the departments involved in planning preventive educational activities and services for its students, the report says.

The issue of sexual violence on college campuses has been front and center this year. In January, President Obama established the White House Task Force To Protect Students from Sexual Assault. Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, is also co-sponsoring the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act.

An SDSU spokesman told KPBS Midday Edition, no one was available to participate on Monday's program but released a statement saying in part:

“We appreciate the opportunity this audit gave us to look at our policies and procedures as they relate to the issues of Title IX, sexual assault and sexual harassment on our campus. San Diego State University is committed to training and educating our students, faculty and staff about these issues, and appropriately managing reported incidents. There is always room for improvement. The audit provides continued opportunities for this, and we will be following those recommendations.”

The Washington Post recently compiled data to compare how U.S. college campuses vary in reports of sex offenses.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.