Cozen O’Connor Chair Gina Smith (pictured) and Vice Chair Leslie Gomez presented the law firm’s findings at Wednesday’s CSU Board of Trustees Meeting. Credit: Screenshot | CSU Board of Trustees livestream

A glimpse of the Cal State Title IX preliminary review reveals severe shortcomings of staffing and funding for campus resources.

The Cozen O’Connor law firm summarized its year-long analysis at the CSU Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday. 

“There is a lot to do in this space, and there are not currently enough people to do it,” said the firm’s vice chair, Leslie Gomez.

The firm recommends the CSU introduce a new role in the Chancellor’s Office to centralize oversight and accountability processes. However, they said institutional changes require a “multi-year commitment.” 

Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester hired Cozen O’Connor to locate gaps within the Title IX system last year, following a sexual misconduct scandal involving former Chancellor Joseph Castro.

For nine months, the third party law firm visited all 23 CSU campuses — 24 including the Chancellor’s Office. A complete report for each university is slated to be released in June.

The firm’s research showed an overwhelming amount of distrust in the Title IX system and Discrimination Harassment and Retaliation. Many campuses are overburdened with reports and not enough staffing, the presenters stressed. 

At 19 of 23 universities, there are not enough people to do the work assigned in the Title IX office, Cozen O’Connor Chair Gina Smith said. The large amount of responsibilities for limited staff has resulted in “overload accommodation,” where there are not enough resources to help everyone. 

In turn, a “trust gap” develops as people feel the system does not support them. Low trust leads to underreporting in sexual assault, discrimination and harassment.

A Mustang News investigation found some people chose not to report because they felt their case would not be resolved. Others felt their perpetrators were not held accountable. Cal Poly had the highest number of reports of sexual assault in 2021 and the second highest reports the previous two years across the CSU. For Title IX reports, 148 were received from 2019 to 2020.

The law firm obtained access to full campus data and personnel to conduct research. Additionally, 18,000 survey responses were gathered from participating students, faculty and staff. The firm also received 160 anonymous responses through email. Areas of focus included policy and procedure, infrastructure and resources, prevention and education, documentation and records management.

“We recognize that this review occurred at a moment in time,” Smith said. “And we recognize also within the confines of time today, we don’t have the capacity to do justice to all the nuanced discussions that you will receive in the full written report.”

However, Cozen O’Connor found inadequate data tracking systems for the cases they receive, meaning the data they have is incomplete.

The record keeping system for reports is inconsistent campus to campus, which creates issues of accountability and timeliness. Cozen O’Connor revealed that there was “no consistent formal process for reporting, resolving, documenting or tracking” cases.

Currently, there is no oversight authority for campus Title IX and Discrimination Harassment and Retaliation (DHR) programs according to Gomez. Campus assistance from the Chancellor’s Office is “uneven” and based on a request system.

Therefore, a more centralized model — a recognized “paradigm shift” — is necessary for equal processes, Gomez said.

Recommendations included training a shared pool of investigators and hearing officers through stand alone regional centers and creating centralized data management systems. At the campus level, the researchers recommended having an individual who tracks prevention, education and training and expanding training for campus staff.

Systemwide, they recognized a need to identify additional financial resources and expand staffing to support each campus. The firm recommended creating a systemwide annual report and conducting university climate surveys. 

Overall, Title IX and DHR programs “need increased structures for accountability,” Smith said.

“This work is hard, it is complex and it is vital,” Gomez said. “We’re humbled to have the opportunity to assist the CSU community in this ambitious and aspirational endeavor.”

Interim Chancellor Koester thanked participating students and staff for the extensive review — calling on everyone to commit to the “uncomfortable” change ahead.

“Many of these report findings are difficult to hear,” Koester said at the board meeting. “Their recommendations are daunting and complex. They require that we drive change in process, policy and most importantly, in culture.”

Cozen O’Connor will be working with CSU staff to create individual plans for each university, following the release of their campus-specific reports.