Campus, News

Sexual harassment bill passes, requiring CSU campuses to expand policy

The Senate passed a bill on Oct. 9 that was originally proposed by Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, that will keep a tighter watch over sexual harassment cases on CSU campuses and will further instate protection for students and staff.

SB 808 builds off the existing federal law of Title IX and will further require CSU campuses to publish annual sexual harassment reports and formal sexual harassment complaints by Dec. 1 of each year.

The California senate passed the bill with 40 yeas and zero nays, with three absences.

California State Auditor Grant Parks investigated CSU Fresno, San Jose and Sonoma campuses finding there were a great deal of mishandled sexual harassment cases. The misconduct appeared to be due to a lack of guidelines in official CSU policy and the closure of cases without substantial evidence of formal investigation.

Out of the 40 investigated cases, multiple instances occurred among the CSU campuses where sexual harassment reports were not handled correctly. These instances included inconsistent investigation, improper handling or lack of discipline and continuation of action.

According to the California State Auditor, from the years 2019 to 2022, there were 1,251 complaints against CSU employees, including the Chancellor’s Office and over the 23 California campuses.

It is noted that some campuses counted multiple complaints against one individual as one case and others did not provide enough information for a case to be counted, so the data is considered “unreliable.” Out of 1,251 reports, 241 were investigated and 98 were substantiated.

Fresno State’s former president and former CSU chancellor Joseph Castro resigned on Feb. 17, 2022, amid allegations of mishandling CSU Fresno’s sexual harassment reports.

Long Beach State political science assistant professor Matt Lesenyie spoke on how the audit further uncovers the CSU Board’s misconduct.

“The takeaway was that the Board is incentivized to protect the CSU system brand by association College Presidents and administrators can protect the brand by covering up scandals in furtherance of their careers,” Lesenyie said. “The cover-up was a perversion of what the board of trustees wants, they should make the place a top institution, not just a top brand identity.”

“The CSU’s implementation of the recommendations from the California State Auditor […] will strengthen accountability and the CSU’s ongoing work in prioritizing institutional response and support systems,” CSU Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester Koester said.

The statement concluded with an agreement with the audit and states the CSU will implement the recommendations to align with CSU values. CSULB’s Title IX report for the years 2021 to 2022 details the number of sexual harassment reports and how the university handled the situation.

“Many university system trustees face this same conflict, so I put all the political expediency and ethical missteps on their doorsteps,” Lesenyie said.

This story was edited on Nov. 14, 2023 for quality purposes. 

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