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California State University System Failed In Responses To Sexual Harassment Complaints

Two reports show that the California State University system (CSU) ignored complaints about sexual harassment and discrimination across its 23 campuses. CSU is the country's largest public university system.

The Los Angeles Times reported on findings released by the California state auditor's office. According to these findings, CSU administrators did not "investigate multiple accusations based on 'questionable judgment,' improperly documented cases, and did not order discipline or training when wrongdoing was substantiated." The auditor's report noted that CSU never formally investigated most complaints from 2018-2022 yet received over 1,200 sexual harassment reports. One hundred and fifty employees repeatedly violated CSU policies and composed over 30% of the misconduct reports. Because CSU failed to document complaints consistently, administrators could not clearly see repeat offender patterns. The CSU chancellor observed these problems a year before the audit began but did not make them public. A Los Angeles Times article on CSU's deficient investigations triggered the audit. The audit recommends many reforms for the CSU, including creating specific guidelines on when and how to investigate, changing its recordkeeping and case tracking across the system, and requiring documentation when employees have multiple allegations against them. CSU has a new chancellor in place who says that CSU will take a more active role in monitoring misconduct across the system.

The Cozen O’Connor law firm also conducted an investigation at the direction of the CSU trustees and made similar findings about the system's failures in response to sexual harassment complaints. Their report cites limited resources and staffing as significant factors, creating almost no accountability and a culture of distrust by employees and students across the system. In Cozen’s report, the investigators also note CSU did not have processes to address microaggressions and bullying that are also "disruptive to the learning, living, and working environment." This report recommends that the chancellor's office overhaul its Title IX and Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation Compliance office to hire more personnel, develop better processes, improve training, and employ experienced investigators.