California officials will soon begin a review of four colleges’ sexual assault policies, thanks to a legislative committee’s unanimous vote to authorize the evaluation on Wednesday. The decision to conduct an outside review comes after a wave of public outcry surrounding campuses’ insufficient policies for dealing with sexual crimes among students. It represents the first legislative action on the issue since college activists began filing a rush of federal complaints this year.
The state audit was prompted by the controversy surrounding the University of California, Berkeley, which has been accused of failing to adhere to Title IX. A group of UC-Berkeley students formally filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education in May, alleging that university officials have failed to adequately address assault and harassment on campus. In addition to UC-Berkeley, state officials will also review the sexual assault policies at one additional UC campus and two California State University campuses.
Assemblymember Anthony Rendon (D) requested the state review, saying that the persistent rape culture on college campuses is “staggering.”
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Rendon said that the level of sexual assault on college campuses is simply exacerbated by college administrations’ inability to adequately respond to rape cases. “These incidents are terrible and shouldn’t be tolerated,” Rendon said, “but the reaction, or lack of reaction on behalf of campus officials, was just something that was just as reprehensible.”
On of the UC-Berkeley students who filed the complaint, Aryle Butler, spoke at Wednesday’s committee meeting. “Over the past year, I have talked to survivors from all over campus who all recite to me tired familiar lines they heard from university personnel they had entrusted to help them,” she explained. Butler said she was assaulted by the same person twice, but campus officials told her there was nothing they could do. As far as she knows, her assailant never received any punishment from the university.
Unfortunately, Butler’s story is not unique. Across the country, students at other universities have had similar experiences when they attempt to report their sexual assaults to campus authorities. Victims are often dissuaded from reporting their assailants, can face significant backlash if they do end up coming forward, and rarely end up being able to ensure that their rapists are actually punished. Over the past year, however, activists have banded together to expose their administrations’ inadequate sexual assault policies and demand they be held to higher standards.
California’s state auditor said the review of the four college’s sexual assault policies will begin no later than November, and take up to seven months to complete.