California State University will soon be required to publicly disclose the results of sexual harassment complaints and investigations and strengthen several other accountability measures under a bill that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law.
Senate Bill 808, authored by the state Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), was introduced in February after a series of investigations by The Times revealed dysfunctions in how Cal State handled sexual misconduct allegations against powerful campus figures, executives and students across the network of 23 campuses.
A recent condition audit also found flaws in how CSU officials investigated and tracked complaints within the nation’s largest public four-year university system. The audit faulted the chancellor’s office for a lack of oversight and said campus officials failed to investigate the poorly documented accusations and complaints.
“Discrimination of any kind (and) harassment of any kind, especially on our college campuses, simply cannot be tolerated,” Dodd told the Times on Tuesday. “This bill will ensure that our policies are followed in the state, that the laws are followed, and that there will also be repercussions when the law is not followed.”
Under the bill, which received overwhelming support in the Assembly and Senate, the university is required to report annually to the Legislature on the number of sexual harassment reports made to each campus and to the office of the chancellor; the outcome of a sexual harassment case; whether a matter has been settled or resolved informally; the number of hearings associated with a complaint; and the time it took to conduct an investigation. Campuses will also be required to publish the results of the settlements. The new measures will come into force next year.
The Times detailed details of investigations and reports into accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault at two CSU campuses in the Dodd District of Northern California.
At Sonoma State, CSU agreed to a $600,000 settlement with the campus president, who reported that several women had accused the president’s husband of sexual harassment. The former provost claimed she later faced retaliation from the president. The complaints against the president’s husband had not been formally investigated at the time they were reported. The president and her husband, who are no longer at the university, have denied any wrongdoing.
At the California Maritime Academy, the Times found that long-standing concerns among faculty and students about sexual harassment and a culture of hatred and misogyny towards transgender and non-binary students has been ignored by Vallejo campus officials for years. Some students who reported sexual abuse and sexual harassment said their investigations dragged on, heightening fears of retaliation.
The Times also reported that disciplinary action was not always imposed, even when allegations against employees were substantiated. In one case, for example, investigators found that a vice president acted inappropriately toward several women who alleged sexual harassment, but was never disciplined. nor asked to follow training.
“There needs to be a stronger set of standards to be able to ensure that our students and faculty members remain safe on campus to do the work that they need to do,” Dodd said.
At a recent state hearing, lawmakers questioned whether top officials in the chancellor’s office would make changes without legislative oversight.
“I don’t see how anyone at the top could be held responsible. I don’t see a timeline and I don’t see a commitment to get this done,” said Assemblymember Dawn Addis (D-Morro Bay) in response to comments from CSU officials.
In a follow-up letter to the CSU chancellor, lawmakers accused university officials of providing “evasive responses” and showing a “lack of transparency” during the hearing from August 31.
Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Leora D. Freedman wrote in a response that Cal State would implement all recommendations from the audit and an external review by the Cozen O’Connor law firm by the end of 2026.
“We are implementing a wide range of solutions and enhancements as quickly as resources and solutions allow,” Freedman said.
Dodd’s bill was co-sponsored by the California Faculty Assn. and the CSU Employees Union, and was supported by the Solano County Board of Supervisors, where the Maritime Academy is located.
“By providing an annual report, it’s certainly a step in that direction toward transparency and accountability,” said Charles Toombs, president of the faculty association, adding that he hopes the recently signed bill will strengthen “protecting workers and students on our campuses.” .”
The CSU did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the legislation, but previously said it would implement comprehensive changes and hire additional staff to improve the investigation process.