The University of California (UC) system has begun to form its "student advisory board" on sexual misconduct, but it remains unclear what exactly the student representatives will be contributing.
Students were told they would be involved in the "procedures, implementation, and enforcement of both Title IX and the UC Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence," but Kathleen Salvaty, the UC systemwide Title IX coordinator who oversees this project, has now said students will not be directly involved in such activities.
"I would not see the students involved in enforcement, but certainly we would expect to get their input on existing and future policies and procedures," Salvaty told the Washington Free Beacon in an email. "I also hope the board members can represent their peers in providing feedback on, for example, the effectiveness of certain education efforts."
"The goal of this board is to give students a voice in systemwide sexual violence and sexual harassment prevention and response efforts, and other Title IX related issues," she wrote.
UC Los Angeles student Clea Wurster criticized the undefined character of UC's endeavor in an op-ed for the Daily Bruin.
"No one really knows what exactly these student representatives will be doing on their respective campuses—not even the UC's Title IX office. In fact, the application itself asks what students think the board should do to improve the UC's sexual harassment and violence prevention programs," she wrote. "If the board doesn't define its role early on, it could easily end up as a meaningless body that has little weight in determining Title IX policies."
Some students have speculated that the board's intervention might improve education on UC policies and communication with administrators on incidents of sexual misconduct.
Members of the UC community have criticized the project for being a volunteer board, saying students should receive compensation in some way for their work.
Salvaty could give no estimate for the projected costs of the program.
"[We] have not specifically allocated funding for the project at this time," she said, but added that, "UC will sponsor the board and its efforts and pay for travel costs."
Student affairs and the systemwide Title IX office are responsible for supporting the board, she said.
The 19 board members will be selected early next year and serve through June 2019, though subsequent boards will serve terms of one academic year. One undergraduate and graduate student will be selected from each campus other than San Francisco, which will only have a representative from the graduate level.
Board members will attend bi-annual meetings and hold regular phone calls with the systemwide Title IX office. Any additional time or effort spent on the project will be up to the students, said Salvaty.
Salvaty said UC had received 67 applications as of Wednesday, the day before applications closed.
UC leadership has opposed new Title IX policies coming out of Washington. Within hours of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinding Obama-era guidelines in September, UC President Janet Napolitano announced that sexual assault policies would not change on her campuses.
DeVos has said her changes permit universities to more rigorously investigate sexual misconduct allegations and will give both victims and the accused due process. DeVos described her move as a necessary reparative to the previous administration allowing universities to use a lower standard of evidence when prosecuting students.
Napolitano said she was "deeply worried" DeVos's approach "will in effect weaken sexual violence protections, prompt confusion among campuses about how best to respond to reports of sexual violence and sexual harassment, and unravel the progress that so many schools have made in ensuring fair, timely procedures for both survivors and the accused."
Meanwhile, UC Berkeley was placed under indefinite federal Title IX surveillance earlier this year, in an unprecedented move taken when a lack of gender equity was discovered in the school's athletic department.