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Mixed results in sexual assault audit

Madison Holmes

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Chico State is one of four universities in California audited in a sexual assault report. The Orion file photo.

Chico State excels in support for sexual violence and harassment victims but is flawed in several other aspects when handling sexual violence or harassment reports, according to the results of a federal audit.

The audit results, which came out in June, found the university lacking in several areas. Fully complying with federal regulations, adequately training employees on how to respond to reports of harassment and student education on sexual assault were all highlighted concerns within the audit.

Four campuses were named in the audit including UC Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego State and Chico State.

Prior to the audit, Chico State was not complying with all requirements in state law including provisions in Title IX and the Clery act.

Title IX decrees that programs that receive federal financial assistance cannot discriminate against an individual on the basis of gender. Sex discrimination, like sexual harassment and sexual violence, is prohibited under Title IX.

The Clery act requires campuses to report crimes and security policies in an annual report. This report is meant to supply students with information on campus safety.

Chico State employees, like residential advisers, professors and athletic coaches, were not receiving adequate annual training on how to respond to students who report sexual harassment or sexual violence, according to the audit.

There are currently plans in place to provide Chico State employees with the correct education on how to handle reports of sexual harassment and violence, said Paul Zingg, the president of Chico State.

“Our education of faculty, staff and students, although it existed, was not as thorough and not as consistent as it could be,” he said.

The Rape Crisis Center, a sexual violence counseling organization in Chico, previously trained many Chico State professors on how to handle reports of sexual harassment, said Rocky Cruz, director of Rape Crisis.

The schools who are best at handing sexual assaults have great collaboration between the school and the community,” Cruz said.

Incoming freshmen and transfer students were not receiving a satisfactory education on sexual violence and sexual harassment, according to the audit. Non-incoming students, such as sophomores and were also not receiving further education on sexual harassment and sexual violence.

Chico State is in the process of making changes in order to follow the recommendations named in the audit like forming new programs to provide new students with a proper education on sexual assault, Zingg said.

“There’s a lot, particularly in terms of earlier engagement with students, that we’ve already implemented with student move-in week,” he said.

Incoming students were required to participate in a number of courses on sexual assault even before classes started. They will also be expected to participate in follow-up workshops throughout the year, Zingg said.

Only twelve Chico State students of the thirty four polled in the audit were completely aware of resources available on campus should they experience sexual harassment.

“We need to develop ways to reach every student,” he said.

Another point made in the audit was Chico State’s inability to consistently inform students of what to expect from the complaint process when reporting sexual harassment or violence.

Out of 34 students from Chico State, eight were unaware that they could even file a complaint with the university to report sexual harassment that occurs on campus.

One out of five Chico State students surveyed received inconsistent messages from different offices or individuals concerning the filing of a Title IX sexual harassment complaints.

Out of those same five students, the process involved in filing a Title IX complaint was not clearly explained to two students. The students polled suggested the university provide a timeline for certain actions and better instructions on how to file the complaint.

No students polled filed a Title IX complaint regarding sexual harassment.The most frequent response from students as to why they did not file a Title IX complaint was that they did not know they could.

In response, the university is providing information about what to expect from the complaint process through pamphlets and web-based content, said Dylan Saake, the director of Labor Relations and Compliance and Chico State’s new Title IX coordinator starting Sept. 1.

“We’re working on all of these documents that will explain to students the difference between formal and informal complaints, what the process is and how we will keep you apprised as to what is happening throughout the process,” he said.

Student Judicial Affairs plays a key role in processing and responding to complaints. Several complaints took too long to be processed, according to the audit. Two complaints out of 20 surveyed were not completed on time and two more were not completed at all.

“Judicial affairs wants to be as thorough as possible and find a resolution as soon as possible, but they don’t want to miss anything, they have to make sure the process works well for the victim and the complainant,” Zingg said.

One complaint remained incomplete because it was dropped by the student. The other student’s complaint was completed informally.

“They are mindful of the concern that they should try to move more quickly and they are taking that seriously,” Zingg said.

The University Police Department’s Safe Place was commended in the audit for being a place for students to turn to when reporting a sexual assault, but there is always room for improvement, said Emily Peart, Safe Place administrator.

“We are always striving to improve and are always looking for ways to do that, whether it is through client feedback or campus partners,” she said.

Chico State is using the audit as an opportunity to grow as a university, Zingg said.

“We want to be better able to support students and all members of the community,” he said. “We are very comfortable with the findings and we agree that we can do better.”

Madison Holmes can be reached at [email protected] or @madisonholmes95 on Twitter.

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Mixed results in sexual assault audit