Amid growing scrutiny of the way universities handle sexual assault cases, the California State University announced Friday that it has hired Pamela Thomason as its new Title IX compliance officer.
“Her work will be vital to expanding the education and training of students, faculty and staff to tackle the issue of sexual violence in our campus communities,” CSU General Counsel Fram Virjee said in a written release.
Title IX is the federal gender anti-discrimination law that compels college campuses to develop and enforce policies preventing sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Thomason starts her job next month. She currently serves as the Title IX compliance officer at UCLA, a post she's held since 2000.
Thomason steps into the position as the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights investigates whether colleges nationwide mishandled sexual assault cases. Among them are some of Southern California’s most prestigious universities: UCLA, USC, Occidental College and CalArts. The Office for Civil Rights is continuing investigations of the four institutions, a spokesman said Friday.
No Cal State campus is under a federal probe. But on Thomason's to-do list, she said, are some improvements resulting from a June 2014 legislative audit of California universities following complaints from victims of alleged sexual assaults.
The audit found two CSU campuses didn't do enough to post sexual assault policies or train employees such as sports coaches and residence advisers on how to handle reports of sexual violence.
“Cal State doesn’t necessarily think that everything is fine because there’s not been a complaint filed,” she said “I think one of the reasons they’re making this appointment is to try and make sure to explore what else we might do, how can we do better,” Thomason said.
Each campus already employs a Title IX coordinator. The CSU chancellor’s office said it will hire a sexual assault advocate for each location by June 2015.
Thomason said her job will be to support the efforts of the coordinators and advocates.
“It’s not me alone trying to bring compliance to the entire system but really to think on a systemwide basis on what our opportunities are for increasing awareness and preventing assaults,” she said.
Student activists and college professors have documented cases of sexual assault and what they say is fumbling by college administrators in dealing with victims' reports. Those accusations have been the basis for the federal investigations.
Last year, Occidental College agreed to a financial settlement with dozens of students who said their accusations of sexual assault were swept under the rug. The college has since launched a broad training program aimed at reducing campus sexual assault and harassment.
Thomason applauds the courage of students who came forward with their cases.
“The students on college campuses have been willing to talk about their experiences and that is really moving the needle on this subject; we are probably seeing a culture shift,” she said.