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UC Berkeley Aims To Overhaul Handling Of Sexual Misconduct On Campus

BERKELEY (CBS SF) -- Following a slew of sexual misconduct cases at UC Berkeley, university officials announced a host of coming changes on Thursday including more preventative initiatives, a consistent discipline process, timely response to complaints, increased support for survivors and increased transparency.

This month the dean of the law school stepped down after admitting he harassed his executive assistant. In October UC Berkeley astronomer Geoff Marcy resigned when media reports revealed he'd been found guilty of sexual harassment. Both men kept their jobs until the allegations went public.

Students say it's a problem with campus culture.

Saachi Gupta, a former UC Berkeley student said she believes it is prevalent on all the UC campuses.

Leonor Alcaraz, a current UC Berkeley student said, "Unless there's enough media attention on it, they just let them slide by."

Cal is already facing two federal complaints and a civil lawsuit over its handling of sexual abuse cases, but now the administration is trying to fix what was bungled.

Janet Gilmore, a UC Berkeley a spokeswoman said, "The initiatives are designed to truly make a meaningful impact when it comes to addressing sexual harassment and sexual violence on campus."

Among the new policies are a task force on sexual violence, educational seminars to raise awareness about sexual abuse and a doubling of the number of sexual assault and violence counselors, from three to six.

For some students it's a step in the right direction, but others remain skeptical.

"If they keep covering it up like they've been doing, adding more people to the staff really won't make a difference," Alcaraz said.

A campus spokesperson said the policies were borne out of two weeks of talks between campus leaders and experts.

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele wrote to members of the campus community, outlining the steps they're taking to "prevent and address sexual harassment, assault, and violence on the UC Berkeley campus."

The chancellors said that over the last two weeks they have met with survivors, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community leaders and took into consideration their comments, feedback, and suggestions.

The chancellors wrote:

"The painful stories and helpful recommendations we have heard over the last two weeks will inform the necessary steps our community needs to take in order to heal, learn, and move forward. We have an obligation to promote a campus culture in which sexual harassment, sexual violence, stalking and any abuse of power are neither tolerated nor ignored, but proactively prevented. We are committed to ensuring that Berkeley is a welcoming, safe, respectful, and inclusive community for every one of our students, staff, faculty, and visitors."

Some of the changes are expected to take effect as early as next month.

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