July 27, 2015

University of California Protects All its Ombuds Under Updated Sexual Misconduct Policy

The sprawling UC system (with 10 campuses, 238,700 students, 19,700 faculty members, 135,900 staff members), has made significant revisions to its sexual misconduct policies. In addition to other changes, the new policy specifically protects the confidentiality of disclosures made to any of its Ombuds.  The new policy was prompted in part by an investigation by Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights and a report by the California State Auditor.

The policy states in relevant parts:

H. Reporting Sexual Harassment or Sexual Violence
Any member of the University community may report conduct that may constitute sexual harassment or sexual violence to any supervisor, manager, or Title IX Officer (Sexual Harassment Officer). Supervisors, managers, and other designated employees are responsible for promptly forwarding such reports to the Title IX Officer (Sexual Harassment Officer) or other local official designated to review and investigate sexual harassment and sexual violence complaints. Any manager, supervisor, or designated employee responsible for reporting or responding to sexual harassment or sexual violence who knew about the incident and took no action to stop it or failed to report the prohibited act may be subject to disciplinary action.
Each location shall identify confidential resources, including but not limited to the CARE Advocate and Campus Ombuds, with whom members of the University community can consult for advice and information regarding making a report of sexual harassment or sexual violence. Requests regarding the confidentiality of reports of sexual harassment or sexual violence will be considered in determining an appropriate response; however, such requests will be considered in the dual contexts of the University’s obligation to ensure a working and learning environment free from sexual harassment and sexual violence and the due process rights of the accused to be informed of the allegations and their source. See Section V.E and F for more information regarding confidentiality and privacy. Also, an individual may file a complaint or grievance alleging sexual harassment or sexual violence under the applicable University complaint resolution or grievance procedure (Section V. Procedures; Appendix I: University Complaint Resolution and Grievance Procedures).
F. Confidentiality of Reports of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence
Each location shall identify confidential resources with whom members of the University community can consult for advice and information regarding making a report of sexual harassment or sexual violence. These resources provide individuals who may be interested in bringing a report of sexual harassment or sexual violence with a safe place to discuss their concerns and learn about the procedures and potential outcomes involved. These resources shall be posted on the location’s website. Confidential resources could include campus ombuds, the CARE advocacy office and/or licensed counselors in employee assistance programs or student counseling centers. Individuals who consult with confidential resources shall be advised that their discussions in these settings are not considered reports of sexual harassment or sexual violence and that without additional action by the individual, the discussions will not result in any action by the University to resolve their concerns. [Emphasis Added.]
(UC Sexual Harassment; Interim Policy; Daily Bruin.)

Related UC posts: UC Santa Cruz Closes Ombuds Office; University of California Report on Protest Policies Reaffirms Role of Ombuds; University of California Merced Enacts Ombuds Charter; UC Davis Appoints First Ombuds ; UC Davis Appoints First Ombuds; University of California President Endorses Ombuds Offices; Job Posting.

Related Title IX posts: Lessons From a Case of Sexual Harassment; Harvard Law Case Study Focuses on Ombuds and the 'Dear Colleague Letter'; Updated Sexual Misconduct Policy at University of North Carolina Reaffirms Ombuds' Confidentiality; Sexual Assault Report from University of Michigan Reaffirms Ombuds' Confidentiality; Grinnell College Affirms Confidentiality of Ombuds Office for Sexual Misconduct Matters Updated Sexual Misconduct Policy at Colorado College Protects Disclosures to Ombuds;IOA Takes a Stand on Title IX Issues.; Watch Senator Question White House Title IX Expert on Role of Campus Ombuds;Revised Sexual Misconduct Policies at MIT Continue Protection of Ombuds Updated Sexual Misconduct Policies at UC Irvine Assert Ombuds' ConfidentialityUniversity of Oregon Approves Confidentiality of Ombuds in Title IX Matters; Cornell's Ombuds Office is a Confidential Resource for Sexual Assault Matters; University of Colorado Designates Ombuds Office as Confidential Resource for Title IX Matters; George Mason University Protects Confidentiality of Ombuds Under New Sexual Misconduct Policy.


  1. Since this is only an Interim Policy (in effect through the end of 2015), let's hope that these two sections pertaining to the ombuds offices remain in tact for the permanent policy!

    1. This is a good point. However, I believe it is unlikely the UC will de-designate any of the confidential offices, including Ombuds. The decision was not made lightly and a significant change could have consequences. For better or worse, the UC is a big ship that turns slowly.

  2. Wondering how much precedence this change in policy will have on private universities that don't take this stance?

  3. Hey Mr. Kosakowski,

    Thanks for this ever-helpful blog. Are these provisions in tact now that we have reached 2016?

    1. Yes. The interim policy was reissued and adopted on January 1, 2016. http://policy.ucop.edu/doc/4000385/SHSV