Updated SVSH Policy: Effective August 14, 2020

On August 14, 2020, the University of California issued a revised Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy (“SVSH Policy”).  The revision was required to comply with the Title IX regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), which became effective on the same date.  This letter summarizes the major policy changes.

The regulations are complex and, as a result, the SVSH Policy is also complex.  The following overview summarizes the major changes within the updated policy. To further clarify these changes, the University developed initial FAQs that are available here, and will be updated as appropriate.

Much of the prior SVSH Policy remains unchanged.  The same conduct that was prohibited by the policy prior to August 14 is still prohibited.  A subset of this conduct is now covered by the DOE regulations if all of the following are true: 

  • The conduct occurred in the United States.
  • The conduct occurred in a University “program or activity,” which includes:

     o   on campus; or

     o   off-campus, and the conduct occurred in the context of University operations, at a location, event or circumstance over which the University exercised substantial control over the respondent and the context in which the conduct occurred, or at a building owned or controlled by a student organization that is officially recognized by the University.

  • The conduct was “sex-based misconduct” as defined in the Title IX regulation, which includes:

     o   quid pro quo sexual harassment by an employee;

     o   hostile environment sexual harassment if the conduct is severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive;

     o   sexual assault—penetration;

     o   sexual assault—contact if it involves the respondent touching the complainant’s intimate body part;

     o   relationship violence;

     o   stalking;

     o   sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 18; and

     o   invasion of sexual privacy if the conduct is severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive.

If the conduct falls within the above-noted criteria, the University must address the conduct through the newly designated DOE Grievance Process.  Some of the notable changes in this process include: (1) the insertion of a hearing following an investigation, and prior to a policy determination[1]; (2) the advisors will ask questions of the other party during a hearing; and (3) the University will provide a person to read the party’s questions during a hearing if their advisor is not present or they do not have an advisor.

If the conduct does not fall within the above-noted criteria (i.e., other forms of Prohibited Conduct), the University will respond through the processes that existed prior to August 14, 2020.

If a case involves both DOE-Covered Conduct and other Prohibited Conduct, the University will respond under the DOE Grievance Process.

If you have questions about how the policy might be applied to a particular incident or you have other questions that are not answered by the FAQs, please contact us at ask_ophd@berkely.edu.

[1] This change was implemented in 2019 for student respondents in response to changes in California case law. The current change of the hearing insertion now applies to cases that meet the DOE regulations and involve an employee respondent.