Sheryl Vacca, CCEP-F, CCEP-I, CHC-F, CHRC, CHPC
Senior Vice President/Chief Compliance & Audit Officer, University of California
The issue of sexual violence and sexual assault in higher education is a vexing problem that has been getting a lot of attention of late. This is the topic that kicked off SCCE’s Higher Education Compliance Conference in Austin, TX today. Sheryl Vacca, of the University of California (UC), walked the audience through UC’s approach to this very timely topic. She explained the background behind this issue, discussed several influential publications and laws, and outlined the newly established UC Task Force, and its three phase approach to addressing the issue.
The Task Force implemented includes a three phase approach. Phase one includes engaging more than 100 university staff, faculty, students, and the Board of Regents, which reviewed and studied available best practices.
Phase two involves adopting a system wide, standard investigation into allegations of sexual violence or assault, as well as adjudication and sanction standards. This phase also involves the development of a comprehensive training and education plan, a system wide standard data collection system, and a process for providing fair and equitable campus services to the respondents.
While discussing phase two, Vacca brought up the fact that the standard in a higher education investigation is not the same as the standard in a criminal case, in fact the higher education standard is a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that it is more likely than not that there was a violation of the school’s policy. This also raised an interesting point, that many survivors choose not to report allegations to campus authorities because of distrust in the system, as there is room for retaliation and other adverse actions. This is definitely something that needs be addressed, and that UC is working on addressing.
The final phase, phase three, involves the sustainability of the program. This involves a focus on the measurement of outcomes, ensuring accountability, transparency, and sustainability of the program, as well as an annual reporting to the President and Regents.
This leaves us with some of the key take always from the session. Some of the important lessons learned from the development of the UC Task Force are that culture doesn’t change overnight. The UC is working with many campus organizations, including Student Life, Housing, Ombuds, Greeks, and Athletics to name a few, to instill the need of a cultural shift. Another key lesson is that compliance focus is a start, but what is really needed to evolve and integrate overall efforts is an educational focus – Campus life should breathe prevention to change the culture.