Editorial: The ARP – Creating a culture of accountability

In April 2011, the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights issued a “Dear Colleague” letter, specifying actions colleges and universities must take in order to promote an accountable culture with regards to sexual assault. The much-debated Alternative Review Process (ARP) is Stanford’s implementation of the letter’s prescriptions. The Editorial Board debated the merits of the ARP and was unable to reach a unanimous conclusion. What follows is the opinion of four members. Editorial Board Chair Adam Johnson ’13 recused himself from this editorial.

The Dear Colleague letter is straightforward. It requires colleges to have a coordinated review process to respond to sexual assault reports that gives equal balance to both the impacted party (alleged victim) and responding party (alleged perpetrator) throughout the process. For instance, reviewers may not conduct pre-hearing interviews with one student but not the other, and both parties must have equal ability to call witnesses. The letter also specifically mandates a preponderance of evidence standard for sexual assault cases – a “more likely than not” standard, unlike the “clear and convincing” standard. Schools that do not implement the letter’s requirements risk jeopardizing their Title IX funding.

In addition to being consistent with Title IX, we believe that the ARP is good policy, particularly the controversial preponderance of evidence standard. The stricter ‘clear and convincing’ standard is inappropriate for an entity like Stanford that, unlike a criminal justice system, does not have the power to compel testimony. Stanford’s review process inevitably will have access to substantially less data than a true court of law, so the standard of evidence should reflect this discrepancy.

But most significantly, the ARP is important because it promotes a culture of reporting and accountability that is desperately needed. Most of the ARP’s changes aim to make the process of reporting sexual assault friendlier and less intimidating. For instance, if the ARP allowed the two students to confront and cross-examine each other – the procedure in place before ARP’s adoption – far more sexual assaults would go unreported: No victim of sexual assault wants to be forced to interact with their assailant in a traumatic and intimidating manner.

Moreover, we are not terribly concerned that the system will be abused by false reports. The problem we face now is chronic underreporting of sexual assaults. The statistics on sexual assault in college are grim: a 2007 report found that about one in five women and 6.1 percent of men are victims of completed or attempted sexual assault while in college. More frighteningly, a 2005 report found that fewer than 5 percent of completed or attempted rapes are reported. We therefore applaud the adoption of the ARP as a means of encouraging more victims to come forward, thereby establishing a healthier culture where sexual assault isn’t implicitly tolerated by an incredibly low percentage of reported incidents.

Editor’s note: Editorial Board Chair Adam Johnson ’13 recused himself from this editorial, instead penning a dissenting op-ed (“Against the preponderance of evidence standard,” May 21).

About Editorial Board

Editorials represent the views of The Stanford Daily, an independent newspaper serving Stanford and the surrounding community. The Daily's Editorial Board is chaired by President and Editor in Chief George Chen, who is joined by Executive Editor Marshall Watkins, Managing Editor of News Catherine Zaw, Managing Editor of Sports Do-Hyoung Park and Managing Editor of Opinions Winston Shi. To contact the Editorial Board chair, submit an op-ed (limited to 700 words) or submit a letter to the editor (limited to 500 words) at eic@stanforddaily.com.
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Politically-Incorrect/100001896293128 Politically Incorrect

    The answer to this editorial is simple, all four members deserve to suffer the consequences of the ARP by being falsely accused of sexual assault; those who are male by females, those who are female by some nut lesbian. Only then you’ll understand the irresponsibility of this stance. The rationale for your support of the preponderance evidence standard is preposterous. Precisely because the university lacks the ability to bring all the information forward it’s because we should demand a higher standard of proof. Have you ever heard about the powers of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discovery_%28law%29 in a civil trial? So the ARP limits the ability for a defendant (it’s really a defendant) to bring testimony and lowers the conviction standard: that’s a recipe for disaster.

  • Thank You

    Thank you so much for this thoughtful editorial and for highlighting how important it is to create a culture of accountability when it comes to sexual assault.  Sexual assault Judicial Affairs cases are about creating and maintaining campus safety – not about irrationally punishing one person just because – and the more we can do as a University to show that we value creating a safe and comfortable campus for all students, the better.

  • dissenter

    So, just out of curiosity, since you’re not “terribly concerned” about false reports, how many false convictions under the ARP per year are you totally hunky-dory with? If your system for determining the veracity of criminal allegations relies on “people probably won’t lie about this,” you must have some threshold of lies you do find unacceptable. What is it? If 10% of the people convicted are innocent, is that OK as long as it “increases reporting?” What about 20%? 30%? Couldn’t you make the argument that even if the system is wrong 49% of the time, it’s still worth it to “increase reporting” on campus?

  • Guest

    This comment demonstrates just how narrowly you view the complexities of sexual assault. Why is it, in your vitriolic attack, that both the male and female members of the editorial board are being accused by women? Men are also victims of sexual assault. This isn’t about vindictive women, it’s about balancing fair policies for both the accuser and the accused. Gender has nothing to do with it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Politically-Incorrect/100001896293128 Politically Incorrect

    Some statistics please. To the best of my knowledge, and the statistics that I have seen, the vast majority of sexual assault accusations come from women towards men.  I am not over simplifying nor I am condoning sexual assault. What I am saying is that those accused of such horrible acts deserve to be protected from from false accusations. The problem of women falsely accusing men of sexual assault/violence is very real even in the criminal justice system http://www.hg.org/article.asp?id=6008 . The only way to protect the wrongly accused is have a high standard for conviction. The assumption that all those 100 rape accusations that are mentioned to justify the ARP  are  real is just that, an assumption. I stand by my previous statement: those in the Editorial Board that defend the lowering of the standard of evidence do deserve to be victims of false accusations.

  • Guest

    This is a real-life example of what’s coming

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjgBfklmYj8

  • Skeptical

    When the training materials Stanford used for the ARP were leaked by a watchdog group, they included a book entitled “Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men”

    http://thefire.org/article/13397.html

    Clearly stanford thinks this is mostly about male students as abusers, or they would choose different materials to train their jurors with. If they choose to teach jurors how to access the “minds of angry and controlling men” during supposedly impartial training, i think gender clearly has everything to do with this.

  • Skeptical

    Nobody disagrees that sexual assault is a terrible thing, a huge problem on our campus, or one that goes underreported. The primary area of disagreement is over whether the dramatic weakening of procedural protections for accused students will lead to an increased rate of false accusations and convictions as well as valid accusations and accusations. To simple dismiss the primary area of debate on the program with “We are not terribly concerned that the system will be abused by false reports” and then move on without evidence or supporting arguments misses any opportunity to participate in the real debate. 

    This is a pretty facile piece of editorial work. 

  • Derp

    “Schools that do not implement the letter’s requirements risk jeopardizing their Title IX funding.”