Thirty-one current and former UC Berkeley students filed two federal complaints against the university Wednesday alleging a decades-long pattern of mishandling sexual assault investigations by campus administrators.
The complaints allege that officials for years have discouraged victims from reporting assaults, failed to inform them of their rights and led a biased judicial process that favored assailants’ rights over those of their victims.
The reports were filed with the U.S. Department of Education, which investigates violations of Title IX, the federal anti-discrimination law, and the Clery Act, a federal law that requires campuses to accurately report incidents of serious crimes, including sexual assault. Under Title IX, campuses that receive federal funding are required to impartially investigate allegations of sexual assault, which is considered a form of gender discrimination.
Last May, nine students filed a complaint citing Clery violations. Students said because the Education Department has not responded, they filed another report, updating the original and adding 22 people.
The Education Department did not comment on the Clery or Title IX complaints Wednesday.
“Neither the Department of Education nor UC Berkeley have made the efforts necessary to address the pervasive culture of sexual violence on our campus,” said Sofie Karasek, a third-year student who is among those named in the complaints. “This is not only disappointing; it is also dangerous for the students who attend college here, and is representative of a larger problem: the federal government is not adequately enforcing its own laws.”
Berkeley administrators had not seen the complaints, they said, but the women who filed it have raised awareness.
“Their stories are heart-wrenching,” said Claire Holmes, a campus spokeswoman. “It’s unimaginable, the kind of trauma they’ve been through.”
Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks issued a statement Tuesday announcing new hires to help investigate these crimes and to help victims navigate the reporting system. He also said victims will be allowed to appeal decisions in internal sexual misconduct cases.
Berkeley joins a growing group of universities and colleges nationwide targeted for Title IX complaints by student activists, including at USC and Occidental College. That network of former and current students, End Rape on Campus, is seeking changes in a culture that it says treats rape and sexual assault as a routine part of college life. President Obama last month created a task force to try to combat sexual assaults on campus.
State auditors have included UC Berkeley in a review of how four California campuses handled assault allegations.
The Times reviewed portions of the Title IX complaint and interviewed several of the plaintiffs. In some cases, they asked to be identified by name.
Diva Kass, a 2009 graduate, said she was raped at a fraternity party her junior year. A sorority sister told Kass she had been raped by the same man.
After Kass filed a complaint with Berkeley administrators, they convened a three-member panel that found her assailant was not responsible for the rape. Her assailant and his fraternity later settled a civil lawsuit she had filed.
“I felt betrayed by the system,” Kass said in an interview from Indiana, where she is a law student. “The fact that the university I loved seemed to not care about me and was willing to find in his favor so they wouldn’t have to report a rape on campus … it was incredibly heartbreaking.”
Aryle Butler, a junior, said she was assaulted twice in 2012 while attending a summer program affiliated with Berkeley. She said she told staff about the incidents. That fall, one of Butler’s friends alleged that she had been assaulted on campus, which also was reported to administrators. Shortly afterward, Butler said, a Berkeley Police Department officer came to their dorm to interview her and her friend at 2 a.m. on a Sunday.
Butler was among the students who filed the initial Clery complaint against Berkeley.
Four women in both complaints say they were assaulted in 2012 by the same man, a senior who led a college-sponsored club. Eight months after filing their complaint, the women learned that Berkeley had put the senior on probation, required him to attend counseling and allowed him to graduate.
Karasek was a freshman when she joined that student group at a February 2012 meeting in San Diego. Karasek said a leader of the group, a Berkeley junior, groped her repeatedly in the middle of the night.
She learned later that two other women in the club had similar experiences with the man.
One said she was assaulted the night after Karasek. The other woman said she was sexually assaulted by him a few weeks later. The two said they knew another freshman who had experienced the same thing on another group trip. That woman had abruptly quit the club and never filed a complaint.
During their meeting with administrators, the three freshmen were surprised to find a fourth Berkeley student there. She too said she had been assaulted by the man.
Karasek said she submitted her statement in May and assumed the matter was being investigated.
In September, Berkeley’s Title IX coordinator, Denise Oldham, told Anais LaVoie, a student leader in the club, that Karasek’s case had been resolved, without a hearing, through an early resolution process, according to the federal complaint.
“We see over 500 cases every year but are only able to seek formal disciplinary resolutions in two cases the previous year,” Oldham told LaVoie, the complaint said.
Oldham gave the same statistic to another assault victim, according to the complaint. Berkeley’s official statistics show there were 31 sexual assaults reported in 2012.
“I didn’t say it,” Oldham said in an interview. “That certainly sounds discouraging to me. It certainly wouldn’t serve our office to discourage someone from reporting.”
Oldham said that Berkeley does not use an early resolution for cases of sexual assault: “I can’t imagine a situation where that would be appropriate.”
Yet a December email sent to Karasek states: “This matter has been explored and resolved using an early resolution process…”
Handling of Harassment Hearing Draws Complaints
Thursday, February 24, 2011
About a year ago, Angelica Guevara was allegedly sexually battered by a fellow student at UC Berkeley’s School of Law.
It took her five months to build up the courage, but in July 2010, she and another woman decided to come forward and report the incidents to the campus Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards after hearing that several other women had also felt harassed by the same individual.
But for months after coming forward, Guevara – who graduated last May – has dealt with last-minute conduct hearing cancellations, miscommunication between the campus and witnesses to the incident and insufficient information about the standing of the case due to federal restrictions placed on the campus. And now that the hearing has happened, she may never find out the outcome.
“The tragedy is that it makes me not want to come forward if something worse were to happen in the future,” Guevara said. “I’m disappointed to know that if a woman comes forward, her voice is still diminished.”
Guevara alleges that she was grabbed inappropriately by a male law student last year while walking across campus with a friend. The other law school graduate to file a complaint against the same male student, Oriana Sandoval, had been at a law school event discussing the male student’s pending divorce, when, after the others in her group left, he allegedly told Sandoval that his divorce was in her interest before putting two fingers up to his mouth and simulating oral sex.
“My incident was in a pattern of behavior,” Sandoval said. “His behavior was escalating and that was why I filed a complaint.”
Per student conduct procedure, the women were put in touch with Denise Oldham, interim Title IX officer and director of the Campus Climate and Compliance Office – which investigates complaints of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination and provides direction to the Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards in the resolution and investigation of these complaints.
When Oldham told Guevara that she had been unable to contact Guevara’s two witnesses, Guevara e-mailed them on Sept. 1 to ask why they had not responded to Oldham and CC-ed Oldham and two law professors.
After receiving a reply from both witnesses saying that they had not been contacted by Oldham, Guevara received a phone call from Oldham advising her that it was better to handle this issue over the phone instead of by e-mail.
“I remember hanging up the phone and crying uncontrollably,” Guevara said. “I felt alone, and I began to feel I regretted the day I came forward.”
The hearing was rescheduled twice, but ultimately took place Jan. 26. Guevara said she was given one night’s notice before each cancellation and had had to cancel work in planning to attend each.
Due to work-related commitments, Sandoval, who lives in New Mexico, had informed the center she would not be available to Skype into the hearing, which meant she was unable to corroborate Guevara’s allegations.
“If we couldn’t have been there in person or Skype in, there should have been alternative ways for us to participate,” Sandoval said. “Written questions could have been submitted to me.”
Due to the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the campus cannot discuss conduct cases unless the person investigated gives their consent – thus, the campus may be unable to disclose the hearing outcome or the reason for the cancellations, to Guevara or Sandoval.
“It’s unfortunate that we are, at times, limited by the law in terms of the information we are allowed to provide,” Oldham said in an e-mail. “The result is that complainants are not always aware of all the efforts we are making to fully investigate their allegations.”
Susan Trageser of the Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards said there are two exceptions under the conduct code where complainants may learn of an outcome – in an instance of significant violence or an issue of sexual assault. Because this case does not fall under these categories, Guevara and Sandoval may not learn of the hearing’s outcome.
Student regent resigns after sex crime allegations
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Jesse Cheng officially announced his resignation from his position as the UC Student Regent on Monday, ending his term that had been marred by controversy.
Cheng’s term took a contentious turn when he was arrested by Irvine police in November on suspicion of sexual battery. Accused of inappropriately touching a woman who only identified herself as “Laya” in order to protect her identity as a victim of an alleged sex crime, Cheng was later found responsible of a student conduct violation for sexual battery by the UC Irvine Student Conduct Office in March.
Though Cheng decided to appeal the office’s decision, his appeal was denied. He received a sanction of probation until the end of the quarter.
Announcing his resignation via a letter on the UC Regent Live blog, Cheng specifically addressed the office’s ruling, stating that he felt stepping down now was the right decision despite the fact that he did not agree with the findings.
“It is a much lower standard of evidence than a criminal court, but I also recognize that the process nevertheless applies to me as a student,” Cheng said in the letter. “Seeing how it will be my last meeting as a Student Regent, and how much of a distraction from other serious student issues that this issue has continued to cause, I think it would be best for the students and the University of California if I step down at this time.”
But the decision to resign did not come out of the blue, Cheng said. Rather, the idea to resign had been months in the making – since January, according to Cheng.
“One of the reasons I didn’t do it sooner was because we still had stuff going on, and I was working on a project I wanted to get out of the way and accomplish before I resigned,” he said. “I am pretty much a lame duck student regent now and there was no real reason for me to continue on.”
Cheng added that officially assuming the student regent position after serving as the Student Regent-Designate for one year was not what he expected, saying that his assumptions of what the position demanded – time, energy and travel – were not what he planned, admitting that late night drives from Irvine to Sacramento and staying in motels took its toll on his personal life and his academics.
Cheng submitted his resignation letter on May 13, though the UC Board of Regents Chair Russell Gould did not formally accept Cheng’s decision to vacate his position until Monday. The board released a statement Tuesday confirming Student Regent-Designate Alfredo Mireles Jr.’s immediate take-over of the position.
“Regent Mireles’ service on the Board will begin immediately after Regent Cheng tendered his resignation to ensure that the student perspective on the board is without interruption,” the statement reads.
Mireles said he was fully prepared to take the student regent position despite the fact that he was assuming it early. He said he has been “gearing up for a while” for the position by constantly communicating with Cheng throughout the year so that he would be as ready as possible for when he assumed the position, which was originally scheduled to be at the July regents meeting.
“It’s not like I had to bleed information out of him. We had constant communication,” Mireles said of his time serving with Cheng. “(Jesse Cheng) really came of age through his leadership, and he really invested in grassroots action. I’ve been trying to plant those roots myself, but I still have a lot of work to do.”
Cheng, who will be graduating from UC Irvine in June, said he feels comfortable stepping away from the position and that he still hopes to be a part of student advocacy groups wherever he goes.
“Personally I don’t think I accomplished very much as I focused more of my work on supporting others,” he said. “Life is a journey. I was reminded that I’m still young, and I still have the chance to live life. I’m still 22, and for me, it’s important to always be politically active.”
Former campus doctor faces charges
Friday, April 29, 2011
A former UC Berkeley health center doctor was charged Wednesday by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office with 19 counts of sex crimes against former patients.
Robert Kevess, who worked for University Health Services for nearly 22 years, is alleged to have committed the sex crimes against six former patients beginning in 2006. The charges include four counts of sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious victim – meaning the victims were unaware of the nature of the acts because they occurred during a medical exam – as well as seven counts of sexual battery committed with false professional purpose and eight counts of sexual exploitation of a patient.
Kevess pleaded not guilty to the charges at an arraignment Thursday at Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland.
He surrendered Wednesday night and was released on bail, according to UCPD Capt. Margo Bennett. The bail for Kevess was set at $745,000, which he posted.
The patients were all male, between the ages of 18 and 42 and students at the time of the alleged incidents, said Bennett.
Kevess faces the charges under both the state’s Penal Code and its Business and Professions Code for allegedly using his position as a doctor to commit the crimes. Deputy District Attorney Teresa Drenick said the alleged sex acts “were committed by fraudulent means during the course of medical treatment.”
Kevess has been placed on interim suspension from his profession, meaning that he will not practice medicine for the duration of the case, according to his attorney, Robert Beles.
According to the charges, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, the alleged crimes occurred between March 9, 2006, and March 9, 2011.
In a statement, Claudia Covello, executive director of University Health Services, and Brad Buchman, medical director of University Health Services, said that no problems were identified during Kevess’ most recent re-accreditation review in the July 2010.
According to the statement, one of Kevess’ former patients met with Buchman March 23 and detailed the alleged sex crimes. Once University Health Services heard the allegations, it notified UCPD, and Kevess was placed on administrative leave March 31 after he returned from a weeklong vacation. Kevess then resigned on April 14.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau was informed of the allegations the day after the meeting with the patient, according to the statement.
“This news is shocking and profoundly unsettling for all of us,” Birgeneau said in a statement Thursday morning. “On behalf of the entire Berkeley campus, we deeply regret any harm that has been caused.”
Beles said the case was “grossly overcharged.”
“The plea is not guilty,” Beles said. “We will be making motions to dismiss the charges of the complaint.”
Bennett said it is possible that other victims could come forward as the case evolves, saying that UCPD is still conducting an “active investigation.” She said former patients who believe they may have had sexual contact with Kevess in the past are encouraged to contact UCPD.
Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said University Health Services will be conducting a “top-to-bottom” review of any policy associated with patient care, protection and education.
“Our primary focus is, as it has always been, on the needs of our patients and former patients, and on steps we can take to prevent anything remotely similar from ever happening again,” said Covello and Buchman in their statement. “We are convinced that, together, we can surmount the challenges before us, continue to provide excellent care for our patients and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure we retain your trust and confidence.”
University Boosts Outreach Programs Against Sex Crimes
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
University sexual assault prevention workshops are increasing this year in efforts to combat the area’s rising number of sexual assaults and rapes-problems campus officials say are often swept under the rug.
Last year, there were 13 cases of sexual assaults and rapes reported to UC police, up from eight in 2002 and three in 2001.
With the number of reported sexual crimes increasing, university officials are stepping up their efforts to educate students, with more workshops put on by residence halls, Greek houses, student groups and University Health Services.
“We’re very cognizant that the issue of education is really critical, sometimes immediately after the situation, and also on a long-term basis,” said Title IX Compliance Officer Nancy Chu.
The campus has been rethinking its tactic toward sexual assault education, enlisting the support of staff and students who can reach a large number of students instead of targeting individual students, said Allan Creighton, campus health officer for violence prevention.
“The topic is really an unpopular one for students to deal with,” Creighton said. “We’ve had a lot of experience doing a lot of preparation for a workshop, and then two or three people show up, so we’ve decided to use a more structural approach.”
After a U.S. Department of Justice report released in 2000 showed that one in five undergraduate women will become victims of rape or attempted rape, the campus decided sexual assault was a problem needing more attention.
“When we found out about (the study), that became an anchor for the prevention program here,” Creighton said.
Recent efforts have been focused on residence halls, Creighton said. More than 60 percent of sexual assault cases occur in the victim’s residence, he said.
Residence hall staff are now required to undergo extensive training on sexual assaults, and they work with sexual assault educators to put on workshops and outreach programs throughout the year, said Stacy Holguin, a manager in the Office of Student Development.
Kevin Wu, a residence hall assistant at Bowles Hall, received a two-hour talk on sexual assault during training.
“I think the majority of RAs liked it,” he said. “As RAs, (sexual assault) is definitely something that we will come across.”
The campus has also turned its attention toward male students, Creighton said-and male students have sought out ways to help as well.
“I’ll actually have men ask me, ‘What can we do to help?'” he said. “My response is that they can be allies.”
After Hours, a program started a few years ago, also puts on workshops weekly for fraternities and sororities. Each year, they reach dozens of fraternities, Creighton said.
Delta Chi fraternity member Anil Daryani said he was shocked by sexual assault statistics presented at a mandatory workshop on substance abuse, which also dealt with sexual assault.
“Bringing facts and figures like that to light is very important,” he said. “You don’t think it happens much, but it does.”
Student groups have also taken up the fight against sexual assault. SHAPE, a DE-Cal class, devises workshops for students on sexual harassment, sexual assault and self-defense.
Campus officials said they hope their efforts will prevent students from getting into compromising situations.
But officials also want to reach the victims of sexual assault who are too afraid to report the crimes.
Director of Social Services Paula Flamm said she learns of one sexual assault case a week on average, but only a fraction of those cases are ever officially reported.
Only 5 percent of reports ever reach the ears of police or officials, according to the Department of Justice.
Flamm said victims had many reasons for staying silent, including a desire to put the incident behind them.
Campus officials hope the reason behind the recent rise of reported rapes and sexual assaults is not an increase in incidents, but the success of their outreach efforts.
UC Increases Efforts to Combat Sexual Harassment
Thursday, September 4, 2003
Following last year’s scandal over the resignation of a dean after sexual harassment allegations, UC Berkeley officials are stepping up efforts to address some of the more sordid possible problems of workplace relationships.
The new program requires all faculty, staff and graduate student instructors to undergo training to increase sensitivity to sexual harassment.
“All the training and prevention efforts will help bring clarity to the policies,” said Nancy Chu, UC Berkeley’s Title IX compliance officer. “They will also let people know where they can go for help, either in reporting problems or in getting clarification for issues that reside in the gray area.”
These efforts stem from questions about the effectiveness of UC Berkeley’s sexual harassment training that surfaced over the dean’s resignation last year.
Despite UC Berkeley’s sexual harassment policies, professors said training efforts had been limited.
“I have never received any training at all. I’ve never gotten a document that contains the university’s policy,” law professor Linda Krieger, who teaches employment discrimination, told the San Francisco Chronicle in December.
John Dwyer, then dean of Boalt Hall School of Law, stepped down in December following what he called a consensual, but inappropriate “single encounter” with a student two years prior.
The student’s lawyer said Dwyer “grossly mischaracterized” the incident as consensual and alleged the campus was not in compliance with the California Education Code requiring the university to take “affirmative steps to prevent harassment.”
The training includes a basic online course, which takes about an hour to complete.
Acknowledging that “sexual harassment is common in all work places and campuses,” the test identifies obvious and egregious examples of sexual harassment and poses increasingly complex scenarios on how to deal effectively with sensitive material taught in class.
For example: A student complains about nude models that appear as screen-savers on a computer she is using for a lab. She says that men frequently make offensive remarks to her when she walks down the hall. The lab supervisor takes no action. Is this scenario sexual harassment?
The answer is yes.
The new training options also include hour-long workshops and in- person briefings led by the campus Title IX staff.
Ensuring that staff and all departments complete the program may take up to a year, Chu said. So far only a few have finished the test.
University officials acknowledged the crucial inclusion of GSIs in the program in a recent memo saying that they were “among the groups that will benefit the most” because of their “relative inexperience in the role of the instructor.”
“I think it’s a good approach,” said David Leonard, dean of International and Area Studies. “Most people will be thankful it’s an online course and can complete it at their leisure.”
Boalt Dean Quits Under Sexual Misconduct Cloud
Elana Fiske is a contributing writer and Wendy Lee is a staff writer for The Daily Californian.
Monday, December 2, 2002
The dean of UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law resigned Wednesday amid allegations that he sexually harassed a former law student.
John Dwyer, who became dean in 2000, admitted to having a single consensual encounter with a student two years ago but denied charges of sexual harassment.
Dwyer, whose resignation goes into effect Jan. 1, also leaves behind his tenured faculty position.“I acknowledge that this reflected a serious error in judgment on my part and was inappropriate,” Dwyer wrote in an internal memo to the Boalt Hall community. “I believe I can no longer effectively lead the school.”
In the memo, Dwyer, 50, stressed “there is no allegation any form of sexual intercourse occurred.” He added the student involved had not taken any of his classes.
The law student filed a complaint with the university Oct. 11, according to media reports.
UC Berkeley officials initiated an investigation into Dwyer’s involvement with the former law student as soon as the allegations were brought to their attention, according to a university statement.
Campus sexual harassment policy requires complaints be filed within 90 days of an incident.
Some faculty were wary a single complaint, issued years after the admitted incident, could lead to Dwyer’s resignation.
“I hope the administration has a good explanation for this,” said UC Berkeley law professor Stephen Barnett.
A Stanford University human resources officer who wished to remain anonymous said it was strange for Dwyer to have relinquished his faculty position.
“(Tenured professors) essentially have lifetime employment if you will,” he said. “It’s unusual for them to give up their position for anything.”
Dwyer’s resignation came to many of Boalt Hall’s faculty unexpectedly, just before Thanksgiving break.
“I’m really sad and shocked by this,” said UC Berkeley law professor Charles Weisselberg.
Dwyer will be remembered as someone who was “very scrupulous about the performance of his duties,” said UC Berkeley law professor Michael Smith, who had an office next door to Dwyer’s in 1992.
Smith added Dwyer spent “a very, very great amount of time” working with students, and it was common to see a “bunch” of students in his office.
In accepting Dwyer’s resignation, Chancellor Robert Berdahl “recognized the law professor’s accomplishments as dean,” according to the university statement.
Barnett said Dwyer has done an “excellent job” recruiting new faculty and raising money for the school.
“Ironically he’s been good at trying to heal some of the gender divisions of the faculty,” Barnett added.
Before resigning, Dwyer had a highly successful career. He worked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and was a public defender for two years in Washington, D.C.
An authority on environmental law, Dwyer joined the law school’s faculty in 1984. He was the second Boalt graduate to take the position of dean.
“As a teacher he was pretty good,” said UC Berkeley law student Alex Lee. “In the classroom he seemed pretty professional.”
The university will appoint an interim dean while it searches for Dwyer’s replacement.
The UC Berkeley press office was unavailable to The Daily Californian for comment Wednesday.