In the wake of shattering and painful revelations of the CSU’s systemic failures to protect students, faculty, and staff under Title IX, CSU management’s answer has been small changes and a performative review by a risk management law firm.
A chancellor resigned for mishandling sexual harassment cases, and students, faculty, and staff have shared stories of mismanaged, under-resourced, and shoddy Title IX programs tasked with protecting survivors and holding gender-based harassers and assaulters accountable.
Instead of leading with restorative-justice and survivor-centered solutions, CSU Trustees and management intends to assess itself through a contract with the law firm Cozen O’Connor. We are concerned that the law firm (that boasts wins against workers) will not go far enough in remedying the CSU.
Cozen representatives have been visiting campuses for months, but these stops rarely include interviews with students harmed by sexual harassment or assault, or those stuck in the Title IX reporting logjam. Even input from students, faculty, and staff who serve as victim responders or on rape and/or violence prevention committees is not being sought. Many faculty didn’t even know about the visits until after they happened.
“The Cozen O’Connor study focuses on Title IX ‘process’. This is a very narrow approach that concentrates on the handling of cases. It is problematic because it does not center the survivors of the many variations of sexual violence and rape culture,” said Michelle Ramos Pellicia, CFA San Marcos president and CFA Chicanx/Latinx Caucus co-chair. “We ought to center the voices and experiences of survivors, witnesses, people struck in the system, among many lives impacted.”
Students, faculty, and staff are told the Cozen review is going to focus on “process,” which is why interviews skew heavily toward Title IX coordinators and other campus bureaucrats. Why are Cozen representatives – acting on guidance given to them by CSU Trustees – not involving those most knowledgeable about the Title IX process who don’t have a vested interest in making the universities look good?
Meanwhile, the misogyny and harassment continue.
At his fall welcome address, Cal Poly Humboldt President Thomas Jackson Jr. told the campus community that it’s their duty to keep gender-based harassment and violence out of the public realm to protect the university. Stances like this only serve to silence survivors and force students to flee for safer, more supportive schools, like former Cal Poly Humboldt student Jadence Clifton. Thank you to Humboldt’s Academic Senate for unanimously passing a resolution that affirms and empowers survivors.
“Concentrating in process, speaking mostly to administrators gives the study only the version of the Title IX ‘process,’” said Ramos Pellicia. “Survivors, witnesses, people stuck in the system are marginalized and once again ignored when we should be at the heart of a study that is supposed to review the Title IX shortcomings on CSU campuses.
“It is extremely important that the Cozen O’Connor firm speaks to a wide group of people, instead of divorcing the human experience from the review of Title IX shortcomings on campuses. Doing the latter pushes survivors, witnesses, people stuck in the system to relive the silencing and dismissal. Our experiences should be included in order to understand the enormity and complexity of rape culture and the failures and shortcomings on CSU campuses.”
Disgraced former CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro plans to teach at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo this spring, a position in which he does not hold a terminal degree. While Fresno State President, Castro knew of and ignored abuse complaints against a campus administrator, wrote letters of recommendation for the campus executive, and then negotiated an expensive severance package rewarding the bad behavior.
In a letter, CFA members state calling on Castro to seek retirement elsewhere: “Shame on CSU trustees and executives for thinking Castro was a suitable or appropriate fit for students. Shame on Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong for not working harder to protect students, faculty, and staff from Castro’s chicanery and misplaced values.”
CFA members working with Academic Senates and students on various campuses have come together to claim a seat at the table, calling on campuses presidents to ensure CFA members and students are involved in developing solutions, as well as invited to campus visits with Cozen.
We appreciate the state legislature heeding our calls for an independent audit of the CSU system, and look forward to reading the audit’s results when completed next year.
In the meantime, CFA members will continue organizing and winning more involvement in finding pathways forward to protect the safety of students, faculty, and staff.