The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

Some students feel Cal State LA is letting down sexual assault victims

UT interviews students alleging their complaints were mishandled
The Cozen report was conducted throughout all CSUs came in a month late from the original announced timeline. Graphic by Anne To

The University Times interviewed five students alleging Title IX violations. This is the first in a two-part series.

Cozen Investigation general findings

The Cozen Investigation found several issues of concern about The California State University (CSU) Title IX office. This included inconsistencies across different CSU campuses’ Title IX offices. For instance, the report found that different offices had differences in application of policy, timeliness of responses and processes of investigation. In addition to this the report also found that Title IX offices were failing to conduct full investigations.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, Title IX is supposed to protect people from facing discrimination on the basis of sex. This includes protecting students from sexual assault and harassment. But what happens when some students feel that Title IX is not doing an adequate job of addressing the issue of sexual assaults on campus? 

In 2022 California lawmakers ordered an audit on Cal State University Title IX by the California Legislature. An excerpt from the audit order reads “Recent news reports raise concerns regarding the CSU’s handling of complaints relating to sexual violence and sexual harassment, particularly those involving staff and prominent administrators.” 

This audit was launched following a Los Angeles Times report that discovered that CSU Title IX officers were in many cases “failing to conduct a full-fledged investigation and doing only very cursory and preliminary interviews.”

In July 2023, California State Auditors found “numerous problems and inconsistencies,” across the California State University campuses. A  report from the LA Times  stated that auditors have “faulted the chancellor’s office for not providing campuses detailed guidelines to address allegations against employees.” The audit recommended several reforms that the CSU Chancellors Office should make by July 2024.  

According to the CSU System over 1,200 sexual harassment reports were made against employees of The California State University System between 2018-2022.

The final version of the Cozen report as well as the individual findings from each campus were published July 17, 2023.  

Cozen report: Underdeveloped infrastructure at Cal State LA

The individual report for Cal State LA summarized the Cal State LA Title IX office as having underdeveloped infrastructure that is required to support its response functions and is under-resourced to carry out its myriad roles. It was reported that while Title IX employees have the appropriate training and expertise in the subject matter, there was a disconnect between how the efforts of Title IX employees were intended vs. how these efforts were perceived by students and staff. 

The report noted that the Title IX office is located within the university’s Human Resources Management (HR) Office, and its already limited number of employees also have  responsibilities for Human Resources Management. This takes away from resources that should be allocated to Title IX.  

“We recommend moving OEDI (Title IX) out of HR, separating Title IX/DHR and HR functions, and building out the infrastructure to provide dedicated attention to intake and supportive measures. OEDI can also benefit from strengthening internal OEDI processes, including intake and initial assessment, elevating the care elements of compliance in response to reports, and strengthening collaboration with campus partners,” the report stated.

It was also recommended to make the resources and presence of Title IX more predominant on campus, ensure proper staffing, and increase training for University teams to improve awareness and understanding.

In a “message from the president,” former President William A. Covino and Interim President Leroy M. Morshita responded to the report and its findings. 

“We want to underscore the continuing significance of the issues explored in these reports. Maintaining a culture of respect, caring, and safety on campus is important for everyone in the Cal State LA community,” they said.

Covino and Morishita announced that an implementation team was created to address the reports recommendations for Cal State LA.

Some students at Cal State LA claim to have experienced some of these issues with Cal State LA’s Title IX office. 

Two students spoke with the University Times about their alleged sexual assaults on campus and recounted their experience with the Title IX process. Due to the fact that Title IX cases are confidential the University Times have concealed the identities of the individuals involved in these cases. The students who shared their stories below identities are known to UT leaders. These students wanted to have their identities concealed in the article to maintain the confidentiality of their cases. 

Fourth-year alleges sexual assault by professor

“Maria” is a fourth-year student who alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a Cal State LA professor. According to Maria, when she first presented her case to the Title IX officers in December 2022, they told her that she had a “strong case,” and that Title IX wanted to have the professor in question suspended for the winter semester and fired by the spring semester. This did not happen. 

Maria said that the professor in question was allowed to continue teaching classes through the winter semester and the spring semester. He finally quit his job in April of 2023. 

During this investigation that took place starting in December 2022, Maria claimed that she experienced nightmares due to what happened and repeatedly requested counseling, but was not offered any and was forced to go through the process without any psychological support.

Maria elaborated further on how she felt that Title IX did not not handle her case the way that she had hoped that they would. She claimed that she did not hear back from Title IX until the following February, at which point, she was asked if she still wanted to pursue the case. She said she did. 

“Title IX knew he had sexually assaulted [not harassed] me,” she said. “Yet they weren’t doing anything about it. I 100% feel that Title IX lied to me during that initial meeting in December. I was infuriated. This man sexually assaulted me [came to my house, guilt tripped me, stayed there for days, and groped me]. I felt that they knew this, and were telling me I had to pretty much wait my turn, which was disgusting and so wrong.” 

The professor in question declined University Times request for comment citing concerns about the interview affecting the Title IX process.

 “I would like to provide my side of the events; however, I am still waiting for the formal process to complete. Sadly, I don’t think that will happen by the [University Times] deadline,”  he stated in an email to the University Times.

As of June 2023 this investigation was still ongoing.

Third-year alleges off campus assault

“Olivia” is a third-year student who alleged that she was sexually assaulted off campus by another Cal State LA student while she was asleep. Olivia reached out to Title IX about what happened to her by calling directly. She said that Title IX only followed up with her once via phone. 

No official action was taken against Olivia’s alleged attacker. According to Olivia, an official investigation was never even launched by Title IX. 

“I feel like it was kind of expected because you always see documentaries talking about how sexual assaults are rampant in schools and nothing is really done about it. But I’m still in shock because it’s something you know about but not really what you’d expect would happen to you,” she said. “I try to not really think about it too much. It’s kind of said. You  just have to force yourself to move on.”

Olivia shared that she was sexually assaulted by a Cal State LA employee later on but did not bother reporting the assault because of her previous experience with Title IX.

“Even though it was a student employee, I felt like they wouldn’t think it was relevant. I kept quiet, because at the same time, I was like, I don’t really want to have to go through the same situation that I went through the last time I reported a case to Title IX,” Olivia said.

Since her experience with Title IX, Olivia has done more research into it. According to the 2021-2022 Title IX annual report only 2 of the 60 investigations opened ever reached an official conclusion and for the two that did conclude Title IX found  that there was ‘No Violation’ from the respondent of the allegations.

Cal State LA’s response

In a statement to University Times, Title IX Officer Mariel Mulet addressed the concerns that Olivia raised.

 “The data included in 2021-2022 Title IX Annual Report Survey does not capture the tremendous amount of time and effort involved in handling these matters—whether the case involves a formal investigation or not,”Mulet said. “Our Title IX Office exercises great care and concern with each allegation.”

Mulet said that the cases that Title IX processes are very complicated and that the 2021-2022 Annual report does not capture the full scope of what Title IX does when responding to cases. 

The situations that give rise to allegations are in many cases deeply personal, complex and difficult for all involved. The time-consuming nature of the work cannot be underestimated,” she said.

Mulet said that some cases filed with Title IX cannot even be investigated by Title IX per CSU policy.

“Of the 65 cases included in the report, about half could not be investigated by our Title IX Office because the allegation was made against a third party or an unknown party. Our office generally has no authority to investigate beyond the university community (unless, for example, the respondent is a contractor).”

She said that these situations usually do not result in a formal investigation, but Title IX provided additional supportive measures to students who file the complaints: “Our role in such cases is to assist the person making the allegation through means such as counseling, academic and/or housing accommodations, referrals and other support.”

“Whether or not an investigation takes place is determined by many factors, including whether the report describes facts that, if corroborated, may violate the University policy, and/or the wishes of the person who may have been a victim in light of the nature of the conduct and our obligation to maintain the safety of the campus,” she added.

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About the Contributor
Anna Kuchison, Intern Reporter
Anna Kuchison is a second-year Journalism major and intern reporter at The University Times. In her free time she likes to travel and spend time with her cats. Anna plans to attend law school after college, her ultimate dream is to write a book.

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