Widgets Magazine

Stanford under federal investigation for handling of sexual assault case

The Office of Civil Rights has opened an investigation into Stanford's handling of sexual assault cases after Leah Francis filed a complaint (CALEB SMITH/The Stanford Daily).

The Office of Civil Rights has opened an investigation into Stanford’s handling of sexual assault cases after Leah Francis filed a complaint (CALEB SMITH/The Stanford Daily).

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has added Stanford to its list of schools under review for the handling of sexual assault cases, the office announced on Wednesday.

The federal Title IX investigation stems from a complaint filed by Leah Francis ‘14, who sparked student protests last June in response to Stanford’s decision on a sexual assault case she brought against another student in January 2014.

According to Francis, the complaint to the OCR was filed on Dec. 5. The OCR officially opened the investigation on Feb. 26.

“I came to the decision to file a complaint, because although most of Stanford’s policies might be in compliance, their implementation is not in compliance with federal law,” Francis said.

Francis hopes that there will be motivations for Stanford to change given the government’s investigation.

“I’m hoping that the OCR can look at not only my complaint and my story, but all of the other cases of survivors who I know about that have occurred through the last three years, and ensure that in the future the law is followed,” she said. “I’m not the only one who has had a really intensely mishandled case. In fact, I think that mine is one of the milder [ones], and that’s saying something.”

Stanford spokeswoman Lisa Lapin told The Daily in an email that the University cannot comment on the complaint that prompted the OCR review, due to privacy restrictions.

“Stanford is aware of the Office for Civil Rights investigation and will cooperate fully,” Lapin wrote. “Our policies for investigating and adjudicating sexual misconduct claims are in compliance with both the letter and spirit of Title IX, and we look forward to sharing them with the office.”

Last spring, Stanford found Francis’ assailant responsible for sexual assault, and later ruled on appeal to withhold his degree for two years but not to suspend or expel him. He is eligible to return to Stanford for graduate school in fall 2016.

In August, an Alaska district attorney decided not to press charges against the assailant due to insufficient evidence.

Currently, the official OCR list stands at 101 colleges and universities. Other than Stanford, three other universities — Washington and Lee University in Virginia, the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Point Park University in Pennsylvania — were recently added to the list.


Contact Catherine Zaw at czaw13 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Catherine Zaw

Catherine Zaw was formerly the Managing Editor of News for Vol. 245 and Vol. 246. To contact her, please email czaw13@gmail.com.
  • anon

    What does Stanford expect to happen when they finance and support a group entitled “kardinal Kink”, which by definition (and the student founder’s multiple Stanforddaily articles) describes a club involving BDSM, which stands for and promotes behavior that is by definition sexual assault? Consent means little if a student attends a club, which by definition might involve sexual assault. Because it may not happen at each meeting and to every student does not mean Stanford does not fund a BDSM club.

  • Guest

    I don’t think you understand what BDSM is about…

  • Maxine

    If you attended any of the Kardinal Kink events (or at least even bothered to read the flyers and emails promoting the lecture series), you’d know that the most highlighted and important principles taught are mutual enjoyment and consent.

  • Steve Hayes

    A single person is behind this OCR investigation and all of the OCR many investigations at the Palo Alto School District – Michele Dauber, a law professor at Stanford. It is fine to promote such causes if there is some honest substance behind the allegations – apparently Ms. Dauber places here political agenda ahead of honesty. This appears to be nothing more than a witch hunt – it is a waste of Federal tax dollars.

  • Is this justice?

    Why is Stanford involved and under investigation? The alleged rape took place over break in Alaska, and the Juneau DA has refused to bring charges. If Leah Francis can file a complaint against Stanford for an off campus/over break incident, then the requirements for filing Title IX complaints needs to be changed. The fact that Leah and her friend/alleged attacker were both Stanford students should be irrelevant to an incident that happened off campus, over break in Alaska. If Leah’s friend/alleged attacker went to Florida State or University of Alaska, would Leah be petitioning Florida State or University of Alaska to punish her friend/alleged attacker? I think Florida State and University of Alaska would most likely say this is between you and the Juneau DA, which is what Stanford should have said.

    If Stanford is going to punish a male for behavior when the male is off campus, out of state, and on break, then surely Leah Francis should be punished for violating Stanford’s alcohol policy. Will Stanford start punishing DUIs and other crimes/misbehavior that happen over break and out of state? Can Stanford and other universities punish accusations without charges? Can the wrongfully accused/punished challenge university and Title IX constitutional violations?

    Rather than sexual harassment and/or assaults, the bigger problem seems to be drunk students who engage in sex. Why is the male, who is at least as drunk as the female, held accountable for any hanky-panky that takes place? If the female is too drunk to know she is begging for sex and grabbing the male’s crotch, taking off her clothes, etc. then why would the male have the presence of mind to realize both he and the female are so drunk that neither can consent?

    If a drunk female got behind the wheel of a car and got into a wreck would we exonerate her because she was drunk and therefore cannot be held accountable for her behavior/decisions? The key issue is being a responsible adult and not drinking so much that you lose all control.

    If universities and the government address the drinking problem on campuses, then the “sexual assault” problems would be greatly reduced or go away.

  • come one

    It’s actually the Office FOR Civil Rights. Basic research folks.

  • aaron

    Well said! A male student need only be accused of misconduct and his life is ruined.

  • confused

    I agree with your point regarding due process, and the fact that the Juneau DA choose not to press charges, and therefore did not find the accused of rape, means that Stanford should not expel the student. However, I’m unclear as to how Leah Francis violated Stanford’s alcohol policy, and why that is in any way relevant to her claim of rape. The two should be treated as distinct entities, and attempting to discredit her claim by finger pointing is counterproductive. At the time, she was 21, and therefore legally allowed to drink. She stated that she was ‘forcibly raped’, indicating that she physically resisted and did not initiate.

    You’re victim blaming, and trying to shift the blame off accused rapists by suggesting that if both parties are drunk, the victim probably unknowingly led on the accused, and therefore the individual should automatically be exonerated. This type of rhetoric is incredibly damaging to women or men who were assaulted while under the influence, and furthers the underreporting that we regularly see on college campuses. Moreover, implying that we should shift focus from sexual assault/rape to what you believe to be a drinking problem on campus is ludicrous. I would think that we should instead educate the student body as to what appropriate behavior is while under the influence, along with the importance of active consent, and encourage healthy drinking habits.

  • confused

    Edit: ‘chose’ not ‘choose’

  • Concerned alum

    I don’t think you understand the issue at hand. Fundamentally. You’ve hijacked this issue to blame victims, and suggest that drinking somehow amounts to culpability. This is egregious. You are doing harm.

    The fact is, the university found him responsible for sexual assault. Despite this, he is still allowed to receive a diploma from the institution. This is entirely unacceptable. It suggests that despite their own ruling, the university tacitly endorses his conduct. As an alum, this makes me ashamed.

    I would encourage you to look at the facts around the case, the research on alcohol use and rape, as well as truly understand the power dynamics at play here. The commentary offered above is misleading and not helpful.

  • Heil Hitler!

    The gaytheists and fágnostics of Al Qúeerda are no different than the hijab wearing dóuche bags of Islam.

  • Heil Hitler!

    Ja sam čovek iz sene… Ordinul Dragonului…