Protect Survivors of Sexual Assault at Caltech

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On May 21st, an article was published in The California Tech detailing a student’s experience reporting sexual assault, sitting through an investigation, and attempting to get justice. The article highlighted some serious issues with Caltech’s Title IX policies, namely investigative procedures, the appeals process, and the sexual violence return policy. Conversation generated by this piece has highlighted the prevalence of these problems across campus - while the Tech article was about a single student’s experience, the issues the author faced are ones that many members of our community have struggled with. We, a collection of undergraduate and graduate students, call for a recognition of the following issues and concrete steps to address them, as outlined below.

What are the problems?

  • Caltech’s Title IX investigation process does not provide transparency with regards to how investigators are educated, how they are selected, what questions will or won’t be asked, or how decisions are made.
  • Investigators have, in past cases, asked victims problematic questions. 
  • The appeals process allows for unilateral decision making by a single individual who did not sit through the investigation or hear input from both parties.
  • The sexual violence return policy does not adequately protect survivors of sexual assault from coming into contact with their attackers.
  • We fall behind peer institutions in our execution of the appeals process.
  • Safety measures imposed to protect survivors during and after the investigation process are not adequately enforced.
  • Survivors’ right to a safe educational environment is being compromised.

What are we asking for?

  • More comprehensive training for all decision makers (investigators, those choosing the sanctions and those responding to appeals), which includes education on victim blaming and how survivors of sexual assault process their experiences. We also ask that all decision makers receive more background on case studies so that they come into cases with a more uniform basis of knowledge on what sanctions are “reasonable.”
  • Increased transparency in the investigation process. Students (both the reporter and the respondent) should know what to expect going into an investigation, and what resources are available to them.
  • An evaluation of the existing appeals and return processes, with student input at every stage of the evaluation. 
  • A more comprehensive appeals process that includes multiple decision makers and requires these decision makers to at least hear input from all involved parties. 
  • A sexual violence return policy that is more supportive of survivors’ recovery. This includes ensuring that the level of contact between the perpetrator and the survivor protects the safety of the survivor and their ability to pursue academic and social experiences. We ask that this level of contact is strictly enforced and that the survivor is allowed to continue to request modifications as necessary. 
  • Increased professional staff for the Title IX office so that they are able to continue to support survivors. 
  • The President, the Vice President of Student Affairs, and/or the Deans put forth a formal statement acknowledging that the author of the Tech article has been failed by Caltech and that change will be forthcoming. We are not requesting such a statement from the Title IX office because we feel that they effectively performed their duties in this instance.  

We, a group of undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of different backgrounds and experiences, call upon all members of the community (students, postdocs, faculty members, and alumni) to support this message. We want to make it clear that our community does not support nor condone institute policies that do not uphold our values of diversity, safety and inclusion. By putting out this petition, we hope to show support to the anonymous writer and all victims of sexual assault at Caltech, and call on the President, the Vice President of Student Affairs, and the Graduate and Undergraduate Deans to implement meaningful policy change on an institute level.


Update: This email was sent to the undergraduate student body on May 30th, 2018. While it acknowledges the article we were disappointed by the lack of accountability and the refusal to comment on future policy change or to acknowledge the author's experience. Your support is especially important at this time to show that we need meaningful change and not empty words.