Four California public universities do not do an adequate job of training employees who can respond to initial allegations of sexual harassment and violence, according to a state report released Tuesday.
Auditors examined policies and practices at UC Berkeley, UCLA, Cal State Chico and San Diego State University and surveyed more than 200 students about their experiences at those campuses between 2009 and March of this year.
The audit was requested by state legislators after they heard from UC Berkeley students who said school administrators were mishandling allegations of sexual assault and harassment.
The three additional schools were added to the audit later.
The review found that resident advisors and athletic coaches often are not properly trained to respond to reports of sexual assaults and that none of the schools provide copies of their sexual harassment policies to employees at the start of the academic year.
Auditors also found several cases where employees did not report alleged sexual harassment correctly. One San Diego State student told a lecturer that she had been harassed while participating in a school club. The lecturer referred the matter to the club’s faculty advisor, who met with the student but did not file a report.
A year later, the student was harassed by the same person again, the audit found.
A San Diego State spokeswoman said she could not comment on the incident. "San Diego State University is committed to training and educating our students, faculty and staff about these issues," school officials said in a statement.
Of those students surveyed, 35% said they were sexually harassed or assaulted during the five-year period, although auditors noted the sample size was too small to make generalizations about California students as a whole.
The audit recommends that state lawmakers amend laws to require annual sexual harassment and violence training for faculty and staff and to hold workshops on the topic for students soon after they arrive on campus.
"We need to push forward on its recommendations to make the universities’ policies against sexual violence widely known," said Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood).
School administrators were allowed to respond to the survey before it was released, and all campuses said they agreed with the vast majority of the findings. Officials said they would take or have taken steps to increase education and awareness.
"Our goal is to be the national leader in combating sexual harassment and sexual violence," UC President Janet Napolitano wrote in her response.
Napolitano recently convened a task force to find ways to combat sexual violence.
Nationwide, more than 50 schools, including Occidental College and USC, are under federal investigation for their handling of alleged sexual assaults. The Obama administration has given prominence to the issue, organizing a task force and announcing stricter sexual assault reporting guidelines.