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SF State shrugs off sexual harassment complaint, says student

December 19, 2018

SF State shrugs off sexual harassment complaint, says student

Two women are calling out SF State claiming that university authorities shrugged off their complaints of gender discrimination and sexual harassment on campus.

Former student Isabelle Shin and current student Edee Huff turned to Twitter last October, frustrated over what they say was SF State’s failure to reasonably address their Title IX complaints.

Huff said she plans to take legal action to force improvement in the university’s handling of Title IX complaints.

Shin said her ordeal began when a man she’d never seen sat next to her in class.

“In the middle of a lecture, I could feel something touching my thigh, but I thought it was my jacket so I adjusted,” Shin told the Xpress. “After a few seconds, I felt something again but with more pressure than last time. Then I realized it was the guy next to me.”

She said the incident left her deeply shaken, especially since she’d been a victim of sexual assault in high school.

Shin told her professor what happened. The professor recommended that she see one of the psychologists on campus.

“I went to the psychologist and talked about how I was triggered yet frozen, and felt like I had no control over my body,” Shin said.

Shin then filed a complaint. Filing a report serves as official notice to the university and triggers a preliminary inquiry by Title IX personnel in Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.

But Shin was unable to identify the person, and she said she never saw him again. In fact, she doesn’t think he was enrolled in the class.

After filing her report, Shin said she received a response email from the office advising her to visit a campus psychologist, and that was the end of it.

“They made me feel like there was nothing that could be done because of the lack of information, which made the campus feel unsafe,” Shin said. “It showed me that anyone can walk into a class at State and touch students.”

Shin, who is no longer a student at SF State, said the campus could use more security cameras throughout the buildings, and the university’s Title IX compliance team should take issues more seriously.

Student Edee Huff also turned to Twitter in anger over the handling of her Title IX claim of discrimination and retaliation.

“San Francisco State University ignored my Title IX claim, my emails, my phone calls, [because] they want me to stay silent,” Huff tweeted last October. “Let me say I was mistreated and I am going to speak out. THIS IS NOT OKAY, let’s spread awareness and change the way universities treat their students!”

In response to her post, she received an email from Garrick Wilhelm, vice president of Associated Students Inc. External Affairs, stating that her tweet would not help her situation.

“There isn’t a resource on Twitter to address these complaints,” Wilhelm wrote.

He added that the Title IX office will not give an update on the complaint except in person due to privacy concerns.

Wilhelm told the Xpress that he reached out because, as a student government leader, he is concerned with the student experience at SF State.

“I wrote hoping to give the student a bit of hope that the process can work for them and to connect them with resources in Associated Students that could help them navigate the process,” Wilhelm said.

Huff told the Xpress that she filed the complaint after losing her role as a resident assistant in Mark Park and Mary Ward halls student housing.

“I absolutely loved my residents and was really disappointed to know I wouldn’t get a new group of freshmen to support and guide through college,” Huff said.

She said problems arose after what she alleges was unfair treatment.

“[My area coordinator] ensured that I would not receive a position as an RA for the next year due to his personal feelings against me,” Huff told the Xpress. “He also made it so I could not complete certain aspects of my job and then blamed those things on me and would ‘forget’ about all my RA meetings.”

Huff sent an email with her complaints to Luoluo Hong, vice president of Student Affairs and Title IX coordinator.

Hong referred her to Katon Dalton, equity programs and compliance manager, who acknowledged the email. But it took another 60 business days after the complaint for Huff to be told that an investigation was not deemed warranted.

“They didn’t feel bad about it, they completely ignored me,” she said. “The school needs to take responsibility and say, ‘You know what? It isn’t great right now, and we are going to change it instead of denying it.’”

Christina Sabee, senior deputy Title IX coordinator, responding to the Xpress by email, stated that the equity programs and compliance works to respond to each student report under CSU Executive Order 1097, in a timely way.

“Each case and report varies in circumstances and we treat each case individually in response to its needs,” she wrote.

Sabee encouraged students with questions or concerns to contact the office.