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Cal State plan to aid sexual assault victims praised

Cal State plan to aid sexual assault victims praised
Cal State University Chancellor Timothy P. White committed in June to expand confidential advocates to each campus by June 2015. (Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles Times)

California State University will appoint advocates for victims of sexual assault on all 23 of its campuses -- a move that may spur other colleges around the nation to take similar action, lawmakers said Monday.

Cal State's plan had not been widely announced but was applauded in a press release issued by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and U.S. Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego), who in July introduced federal legislation to deal with the problem.

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Under their bill, all colleges and universities that receive federal funding would be required to appoint independent, on-campus advocates to support victims with emergency medical care, guidance on reporting sexual assaults to law enforcement, information on their legal rights and other services.

In August, Boxer asked California colleges to voluntarily adopt the provisions. Cal State had already been reviewing sexual assault policies. Chancellor Timothy P. White committed in June to expand confidential advocates to each campus by June 2015, spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp said.

Cal State is also hiring for the first time a systemwide Title IX compliance officer to ensure its campuses are aware of their legal obligations, coordinate preventive training and response, and share best practices, among other efforts, Uhlenkamp said.

Universities across the nation have been faulted for reporting and mishandling sexual assault cases, with UCLA, UC Berkeley and USC among dozens of public and private schools under investigation by the Department of Education after student complaints.

The state Legislature recently approved a bill directing state colleges and universites to establish clearer guidelines on consent.

Last week, University of California officials announced systemwide plans that include mandatory training for all students, faculty and staff, more thorough investigations and appointing an independent advocate for sexual assault victims on each campus.

The commitment by UC and Cal State, which is the nation's largest public university system with 447,000 students, could set a national example, Boxer and Davis said.

In a statement, Boxer called on the California Community College system and all the private colleges in the state to follow suit.

Twitter: @CarlaRiveraLat

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