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Saturday, December 2, 2023

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SDSU's Hepner Hall (SDSU Photo) SDSU's Hepner Hall (SDSU Photo)

CSU Systemwide, Campus Cozen O’Connor Assessments Released

In its assessment of SDSU Cozen O’Connor spoke to the university’s strengths and provided a range of recommendations for improvement.
By SDSU News Team

As part of a systemwide effort across all 23 California State University campuses, the Cozen O’Connor Institutional Response Group released its report about how the system as a whole, and each of the 23 campuses individually, addresses reports and incidents of discrimination and harassment. 


Cozen O’Connor identified recommendations at both the CSU system level and each of the 23 universities. The full, systemwide report and SDSU’s report can be found on the CSU’s Commitment to Change site as well as the SDSU Title IX site.


A campus message with information was shared following the public released of the recommendations, authored by SDSU President Adela de la TorreChristy Samarkos, interim vice president for Student Affairs and Campus Diversity, Associate Vice President for Administration Jessica Rentto and Gail Mendez, the Title IX Coordinator and director of the Center for Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination. 


“We are encouraged that Cozen O’Connor noted the expertise and experience of our Title IX Office, the respect and collaboration between that office and campus partners, and the robust anti-discrimination and harassment training and education offered to SDSU students. At the same time, the findings do recommend that we continue to make improvements across a range of areas — and we will,” they wrote


The following information was shared with all students, faculty and staff, as well as parents and families: 


Support, Resources are Available 


We remind all members of our community: If you or someone you know has been assaulted or harmed in any other way, you are not alone and help is available on and off campus. 


We encourage you to report what has happened right away. Reporting is often the most important first step toward healing and in helping to prevent further harm. Tools for reporting sexual and gender-based violence, including ways to report confidentially, and other resources are available on the Title IX site. Anyone can also call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 for support. In the event of an emergency, always call 911. 


Also, download the SDSU Safe app, which allows you to quickly report incidents. Additional reporting tools exist for instances of discrimination, harassment or retaliation. And you can report bullying and other forms of harm through Inclusive SDSU, one of the many resources available to document and address incidents that our students, faculty and staff report. 


Ongoing Actions at SDSU 


Specifically, the report calls for additional staffing, to include more confidential support, and creating increased awareness around our existing dedicated teams and resources. These recommendations, along with others that will come out of our task force and committee work in the coming year, will help guide us as we continue to improve our Title IX and Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation (DHR) efforts. 


Our university community has already made intentional progress in addressing gender-based violence and other forms of abuse. We have reviewed Cozen O’Connor’s specific recommendations for improvements, and we commit to the following: 


  • Foremost, we maintain that gender-based violence, discrimination and harassment should never happen to anyone, and continue to demand that individuals take responsibility to avoid any conduct or behaviors harmful to others. 
  • As recommended, SDSU has already hired a dedicated record keeper, a “compliance specialist”, as well as a University Sexual Violence Prevention Educator and Advocate, and is also in the process of filling two additional positions, a confidential administrative assistant role and an additional victim advocate position. 
  • We will continue to either maintain or implement recommendations identified by the expanded efforts of our Title IX Office as well as the Presidential Task Force on Student Activities and Safety and the Presidential Task Force on Alcohol and Substance Misuse. These, and other groups, have identified or will continue to recommend new educational programs, policies, and intervention efforts around safety and well being and to address sexual misconduct, sexual assault and sexual violence. 
  • Members of the Blue Ribbon Task Force Group have already begun to convene and, over the coming months, will identify additional actions that we, and other higher education institutions, should take to address the pervasive societal problem of sexual assault and gender-based violence. 
  • We have also convened a team to immediately review the Cozen O’Connor recommendations and identify additional staffing and organizational needs.


What we share in this message is a mere summary of what we and many others across our university community are doing to improve our culture and campus environment, to hold individuals accountable for their harmful actions and to support survivors. Our work, and progress, will continue. 


We are grateful to the thousands of students, faculty and staff who participated in this comprehensive, systemwide study. To those of you who offer direct support – whether in official positions, as victim advocates or supporters of this important work – we also thank you. Together, we can and will make SDSU a safer environment in which we can all live, work and study free from discrimination, harassment, retaliation and violence.