'We must hold people accountable' for sexual harassment, UC president says

With sexual harassment controversies roiling multiple campuses in the University of California system, UC President Janet Napolitano on Friday announced new measures designed to prevent future incidents and ensure that punishments, when necessary, are uniform system-wide.

In an open letter addressed to the UC community, Napolitano said that a newly formed peer review committee would evaluate the proposed punishments for “senior leaders” who violate the system’s policies regarding sexual harassment and sexual violence.

The committee will have 10 days to approve, reject or modify the sanctions that are sent its way for review, Napolitano explained in a separate letter to UC chancellors.

Chancellors, associate and assistant chancellors, provosts and vice provosts, deans, athletic directors and head coaches would all qualify as senior leaders under the policy.

In addition, all senior leaders will be required to complete sexual harassment training by March 25 to make sure they are all up to speed on the university’s policies and procedures.

“We must, and we will, do a better job of investigating all claims of sexual harassment or sexual violence thoroughly and fairly,” Napolitano wrote in the open letter. “And when claims are substantiated, we must hold people accountable and impose sanctions that appropriately reflect the seriousness of these cases.”

Napolitano had already created a joint committee — made up of representatives from the UC administration, the Academic Senate and students — to assess the way sexual assault cases involving faculty are handled. That group is supposed to make recommendations by April 4.

However, “recent developments have demonstrated that we must take immediate steps to further shore up our efforts,” Napolitano wrote.

The newly appointed peer review committee has 12 people who represent all 10 campuses in the UC system, with two co-chairs from the Office of the President. The committee will be led by Sheryl Vacca, who heads the President’s Task Force on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence, and Allison Woodall, UC’s deputy general counsel. 

Follow me on Twitter @LATkarenkaplan.

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