Changes for investigating sexual harassment at UC campuses

University of California President Janet Napolitano moved Monday to strengthen campus procedures for investigating and disciplining faculty members in sexual harassment cases and asked a committee that looked into the issue to bring her tougher recommendations for further action.

Napolitano convened the committee of faculty and administrators in October following the resignation of a prominent UC Berkeley astronomer.

She said she would immediately implement four of its initial recommendations, including assigning confidential advocates to field concerns about faculty misbehavior and ordering personnel records to be maintained indefinitely on faculty members who were formally or informally disciplined, a step aimed at making it easier to identify serial offenders.

At the same time, Napolitano said the bulk of the panel's more than two dozen suggestions were insufficient to ensure that the investigations are effective and that possible sanctions are proportionate to the seriousness of conduct.

"While UC has made progress over the last year and a half on faculty sexual harassment cases, several cases that have recently come to light make clear we have much more work to do," she said.

The university has been rocked by criticism over the handling of substantiated sexual harassment cases involving professors and administrators at the Berkeley campus.

Napolitano established the committee following allegations that prominent astronomer Geoffrey Marcy had sexually harassed several graduate students without severe consequences. Marcy has said he was sorry and thought his actions were within acceptable friendliness.

In the months since then, the dean of Berkeley's law school resigned amid faculty and student backlash that occurred when he was allowed to keep his job after campus investigators concluded he had harassed his assistant.

Last week, two graduate students went public with allegations against an assistant professor who has had disciplinary proceedings pending against him since October.

Napolitano said she was sending the committee back to develop additional recommendations for shortening how long it takes for faculty cases to be investigated and for sanctions to be imposed when sexual misconduct allegations are substantiated.

She also specifically directed the panel to consider requiring each campus to establish peer review committees that would be charged with proposing and reviewing disciplinary measures -- a responsibility that now lies only with a handful of administrators.

In the wake of the disclosures surrounding the law school dean, Napolitano instituted a similar committee review process for disciplining administrators.

The panel that came up with the steps Napolitano implemented Monday said it had a difficult time quantifying the scope of faculty sexual misconduct because of a lack of data and case information it called "unacceptable going forward."

Based on incomplete data from eight of the 10 UC campuses, the committee found there were 141 harassment allegations involving faculty made from 2012 to 2015. Of those,  107 never resulted in an investigation and were either declared unfounded, closed through an alternative resolution process or settled through a disciplinary process designed to resolve cases quickly.

Out of the 34 cases in which an investigation was conducted, allegations were substantiated in 11, the committee said. Ten of the faculty members either left the university or agreed to waive their right to have the allegations investigated by their campus Academic Senate, which has sole authority for firing tenured professors.