In the latest sexual violence and harassment scandal at UC Berkeley, several high-profile faculty members and staff were forced out of the school in response to public outrage at the minimal sanctions imposed on the perpetrators.
This time, Berkeley has come under fire for refusing to find the assistant basketball coach responsible for sexual harassment until the latest possible moment, giving lenient sanctions to the Dean of Berkeley Law, and keeping its Vice Chancellor for Research -- who previously resigned in the aftermath of the allegations -- onboard as an advisor for the school's "global campus" expansion project. All of that comes on the heels of the scandal that roiled the campus last semester, when renowned astronomer Geoffrey Marcy faced virtually no consequences for sexually harassing students for years.
Sofie Karasek, Director of Education at End Rape on Campus and UC Berkeley alumna, reminds all of us that these events aren't isolated. Berkeley's deliberate indifference to sexual assault and harassment, and subsequent institutional betrayal, has been an infuriating and pervasive force throughout the school's history, and she's got the documentation to prove it.
Sofie developed a comprehensive resource detailing Berkeley's history of mishandling sexual violence. We are proud of her efforts to bring survivors justice at Berkeley and at universities across the nation.
Visit her website here.
UPDATE: Berkeley released a statement today outlining their plan to address sexual assault and harassment on campus. Sofie Karasek, Director of Education at EROC and Berkeley alumna, issued a powerful statement in response:
"As I have said before, I take anything that Berkeley says with a grain of salt. In September 2014, Napolitano told NPR that the University of California must "maintain zero tolerance" for sexual harassment and assault. This past month - two and a half years after Napolitano said that Berkeley needed to "maintain" zero tolerance -- Dan Mogulof from Berkeley's public affairs department admitted to NPR that Berkeley does not have, and never has had, a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment and assault.
As they have done time and time again, Berkeley has tried to address sexual assault and harassment as close to the bare minimum as they can get away with. Not surprisingly, the so-called reforms in this letter are incredibly vague. UCOP already decided months ago that all staff, faculty and employees should be trained - however, the plan is for it to be online training, which is, first of all, not as effective of a means of preventing sexual violence, and secondly, it is unclear whether any faculty members who do not complete it will be reprimanded. As a recent example, Dean Choudhry did not get in trouble for failing to do it. Why should we expect that Berkeley is going to be "proactive" about addressing this issue, when they have repeated the same broken-record response -- that they are "committed to doing something about the problem" -- for nearly forty years?
There are already multiple "task forces" that seek to supposedly address sexual assault and harassment at Berkeley and at the UC -- the UC-wide task force on sexual assault and the task force that existed for years at Berkeley and became the CCRT (Coordinated Community Review Team), which is split into multiple working groups. How is this "new" task force going to be any different from the task forces that already exist? It is blatantly obvious that the sole purpose of establishing yet another task force is being able to announce its creation. The students I know who were on Berkeley-specific task forces and working groups over the years routinely complained that key administrators would not bother showing up to meetings, that the meetings would be scheduled at in-opportune times, and that little to nothing was accomplished during them.
Berkeley is merely waiting for this issue to dissipate from the public eye. In the meantime, they will seek to get brownie points for doing things that they have been required to do already. Berkeley's response to sexual violence and harassment is a wolf in sheep's clothing, and does virtually nothing to ensure transparency that would prove otherwise."
Berkeley isn't an isolated case. These injustices occur at universities across the nation. Join us. Know your rights. And learn about what you can do to hold your institution accountable