Letter to Members Regarding UC’s New Sexual Harassment Policy

Dear UAW Members,

On January 1, the University implemented its first UC-wide policy on sexual harassment and assault (link). This policy has far reaching implications for all of us, both as employees and as students. We want to reach out to all members to provide information about the new policy and express some of our concerns regarding the additional tasks it requires us to undertake.  

While we do advocate for changes to system-wide policies on this matter and understand that they are currently inadequate, we believe that the most recent changes are severely flawed. We lament what we see as the University’s deliberate exclusion of our input and expertise gained by supporting our members who have come forward with allegations.

Per the policy, all university employees—including teaching assistants, graduate student instructors, research assistants, tutors, etc.—are now considered “responsible persons.” This means that you must make a formal report to the Title IX officer about any instance (real or suspected) of sexual harassment and assault that a student discloses to you, without regard to the student’s desire to file such a report.

Student focus groups working with the University of California Office of the President protested that this requirement violates survivors’ rights to bodily autonomy and self-determination in ways similar to sexually-motivated and gendered violence by taking away survivors’ ability to choose whether and when to report. These sentiments are echoed by members of the Academic Senate also spoke out against mandated reporting and cited well-established research demonstrating the negative correlation between mandated reporting policies, survivor feelings of safety and institutional support, and survivor access of institutional resources. In a letter to Dan Hare, Chair of the Academic Senate, over thirty faculty members wrote:

Rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment are traumatic in part because the victim loses control over his or her own body. A clearly established principle for recovery from these traumatic experiences is to rebuild trust and to reestablish a sense of control over one’s own fate and future. When a survivor’s experience of sexual victimization is reported to authorities, in disregard of her or his explicit request for confidentiality, great psychological distress is a likely result. Moreover, the likelihood that the survivor will continue to engage with the investigation of the offense is reduced.

Among those journals cited in the letter are Violence and Victims, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychology of Women Quarterly, and Journal of Interpersonal Violence. In order to address and ameliorate the problems caused by sexual harassment and assault, it is imperative that we counsel survivors and point them toward helpful resources while leaving the decision to report in their hands.

 Additionally, it is the Union’s position that this new policy constitutes a change to our duties and conditions of employment. Because the university has a contractual obligation to bargain with us over these changes, their failure to do so in reclassifying us as “responsible employees” constitutes a violation of their authority. We have filed a grievance with the University over this and are confident that it will be upheld, because we believe that unionized employees cannot be required to be mandated reporters or be punished for refusing to violate the consent of survivors of sexual assault.

In the meantime, know that the Union will fight any disciplinary actions taken against you if you refuse to violate the consent and trust of your students and peers. Regardless of the language of the policy, it is the Union’s position that you should not be required to make a report if a student or colleague comes to you in confidence.  

For more information, please contact:

Amanda Reyes, Head Steward, UCSC amandareyes.mail@gmail.com

Irene Morrison, Southern Vice President, UCR morrmi26@gmail.com