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Oxy faculty votes no confidence in handling of assault complaints

By Larry Gordon

10:28 PM EDT, May 6, 2013

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Occidental College faculty Monday overwhelmingly voted resolutions of no confidence against the campus attorney and another high-ranking administrator for what critics contended was their inadequate responses to allegations of sexual assaults against women at the Los Angeles liberal arts school.

The symbolic vote comes two weeks after a group of Occidental students, faculty and alumni filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, alleging that the school failed to protect women from sexual assaults over the last few years.

The college recently has taken what it describes as a series of steps to prevent assaults and has hired two former sex crimes prosecutors to review the school's handling of alleged sex abuse cases and to make recommendations for the future.

The no-confidence vote was against campus legal counsel Carl Botterud, who previously recused himself from involvement in the sexual misconduct cases, and Barbara Avery, vice president of student affairs.

Reached by phone, Botterud said he wished the faculty had delayed any action until the end of the internal investigation of the college’s reactions. Avery’s office said she was not available to comment.

Amy Lyford, Occidental’s faculty council president, said the no-confidence votes show that the faculty "are deeply concerned" about how the assault allegations were handled and investigated.

Even though the college has undertaken reforms, the faculty does not have confidence that Botterud and Avery can implement the changes, according to Lyford, a professor of art history and visual arts.

Sociology professor Lisa Wade said she voted for the no-confidence resolutions as a way to urge the college to further reform its policies.

Occidental College spokesman James Tranquada said the campus and its president, Jonathan Veitch, take the faculty concerns "very seriously."

Tranquada cited the hiring of the two experts to look into the controversy as among the measures showing the school "is committed to having the best policies, procedures and personnel in place to allow us to be a model for other colleges to follow."

He said it was premature, pending the internal probe, to say whether the two administrators might have their job responsibilities changed. 

 

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larry.gordon@latimes.com