Title IX expert sees flaws in CSU response to sexual harassment reports involving Sonoma State

The founder of Title IX Consulting Group said she saw red flags in the way that CSU responded to people who reported sexual harassment involving Sonoma State.|

Sandra E. Hodgin, a Title IX expert and founder of the California-based Title IX Consulting Group, said she saw red flags in the way that the state’s largest university system responded to people who reported sexual harassment involving Sonoma State.

Former Green Music Center managing director Kevin Wenrick said he approached SSU President Judy Sakaki in 2016 with concerns about her husband, Patrick McCallum.

Hodgin said that, at the time, it was less common for employee harassment complaints to be handled through a Title IX Office, where they are frequently handled now.

“In 2016, campuses solely looked at Title IX protections for students for the most part,” Hodgin said. “They weren't looking at protecting employees and how to address sexual harassment under Title IX.”

Still, the school was subject to Title VII, the federal law prohibiting discrimination in the workplace, Hodgin said. Human resources would have been the appropriate channel for Wenrick to bring such a report, she said.

It’s not uncommon for employees to use informal channels, such as an offhand conversation to pass along information about potential harassment, especially if they are not fully trained in how to use the formal channels such as human resources, she said.

A university president, though, “would have known who the appropriate people are, especially for Title VII at that time,” Hodgin said. “They would have known HR is where you're supposed to go.”

“Legally, is (Sakaki) the one that they're supposed to go to and give this concern? Not necessarily,” she said.

“However, best practices would be for her to then say to this individual, ‘If you have a concern, go to HR.’ Or she could have contacted HR and told her secretary or somebody, ‘You know what, just be sure to let HR know somebody gave me this information. I'm doing my due diligence and letting HR know this came to me … so that way, they can just follow up on it if they want to.’”

Hodgin questioned why Wenrick did not follow up on his initial report to Sakaki within a month. He said he would have done so if he hadn’t been fired a little over a month later.

Hodgin also questioned whether authorities appropriately handled the case of William Gregory Sawyer, a vice president at CSU Channel Islands who was under investigation for harassment when he was hired at Sonoma State.

In that case, Hodgin said, she would have also expected the CSU Chancellor’s Office to get involved after the finding of unprofessional conduct.

“I would assume that the CSU system would have required him to go into some sort of training or education to ensure that there was no unprofessional conduct continuing to take place,” Hodgin said.

Reach Staff Writer Kaylee Tornay at 707-521-5250 or kaylee.tornay@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ka_tornay.

Reach PD Columnist Marisa Endicott at 707-521-5470 or marisa.endicott@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @InYourCornerTPD

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