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State to audit sexual assault policies at UC Berkeley

The policies of three other California colleges, yet to be chosen, will also be audited. Students at Berkeley filed a complaint, saying they had been sexually assaulted but their cases were inadequately investigated.

August 21, 2013|By Jason Song

State legislators unanimously approved an audit Wednesday that will examine sexual assault policies and practices at UC Berkeley and three other state schools.

The audit was requested by Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), and approved by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. The state review came after Rendon said he was contacted by Lindsay Bubar, an activist who has previously worked with Rendon and nine students at UC Berkeley who filed a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education that alleged the school had inadequately investigated their sexual assaults.

State auditors are required to report on colleges' compliance with federal sexual assault reporting laws every three years, but Rendon asked that state auditors also examine whether schools were encouraging students to report assault or harassment, if campuses' are providing sufficient counseling and resources to victims, and if school officials are referring cases to law enforcement.

"Sexual violence is the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about, particularly in an educational environment," Rendon wrote in his request for the audit. "This... is an attempt to shine light on the issue and to bring our public postsecondary education institutions into the 21st century with regard to sex crimes."

The audit should be completed within seven months. The other three schools have not yet been selected.

At a hearing of the 14-member committee Wednesday, several current students testified about their experiences and accused UC Berkeley administrators of not being responsive to their complaints.

Berkeley administrators said they would cooperate with the audit and were committed to providing a safe environment for students.

The Berkeley women who filed the federal complaint in May worked closely with advocates who have advised students with similar assault allegations at schools including USC, Occidental and Swarthmore colleges, and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Students at those schools were encouraged to file complaints that alleged that administrators were not complying with Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter informing institutions that "sexual harassment of students, which includes acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX."

The Education department agreed earlier this year to investigate the complaints from USC and Occidental. Those probes, now underway, include allegations that the schools failed to investigate sexual assault claims in a thorough or timely manner.

jason.song@latimes.com

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