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BJA plans alt. review process

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Changes may be on the horizon for the way Fundamental Standard violations stemming from sexual violence cases are handled at Stanford.

The Board on Judicial Affairs is set to meet today to continue planning an “alternative review process” for cases involving sexual violence here.

The board, which began posting its meeting minutes online this year, has been in talks with the Sexual Violence Advisory Board since May 2009 and could send a recommendation to President John Hennessy by the end of the quarter, according to board co-chair Ben Davidson, a law student.

The board’s minutes shed some light on the historically private group, which sets policy for the Office of Judicial Affairs where, among other things, students respond to accusations of violating the University’s Honor Code and Fundamental Standard. The office oversaw 123 cases during the 2008-2009 academic year.

Fundamental Standard violations include sexual “misconduct,” like assault or harassment. Judicial Affairs oversaw one such case in fall 2008, the most recent quarter for which statistics are publicly available.

Davidson said that efforts to change the way Judicial Affairs handles sexual violence cases began in May, when representatives of Stanford’s Sexual Violence Advisory Board came to the BJA to make suggestions on how the current process, described in the Student Judicial Charter of 1997, “could be improved.”

Carole Pertofsky, a staff member at Vaden Health Center and co-chair of SVAB, affirmed that her board became interested in changes to the process last year, specifically the burden of proof requirement for sexual violence cases.

But Pertofsky wrote in an e-mail to The Daily that “this year, due to informal surveying, SVAB became aware that a measure to change the standard was not likely to succeed.”

“Therefore, in partnership with the ASSU and other groups, SVAB chose to conduct in-depth campus awareness and education campaigns about the issue and garner future support from the Judicial Affairs Board, Stanford’s senior leadership and, of course, the student body,” Pertofsky added.

ASSU President David Gobaud, a coterminal student in computer science, asked his legislative team to quietly research the burden of proof issue last year, but later dropped the project. Gobaud is now pursuing an education campaign for students with his health and wellness team.

Changes to how sexual violence cases are handled, then, rest in the BJA’s hands for now. Davidson said the board discussed the “alternative review process” again at its December meeting and will focus on the issue at today’s meeting.

He said that if approved, the process would become a one-year pilot program.

Normally, changes outside the provisions of the judicial charter — such as this one — require approval by the ASSU Undergraduate Senate, the Graduate Student Council and the University president.

Davidson called that “a valuable but lengthy process,” adding that “many of the people involved believe that this would be most appropriate after we have collected information from the pilot program.”

So, he said, the board would likely use another section of the charter, IV.A, that would allow the board to send a pilot program recommendation straight to Hennessy.

At today’s meeting, two versions of the minutes from the board’s December meeting — “abbreviated” and “detailed,” according to Davidson — are up for approval, after which the abbreviated version would be made available online.

Elizabeth Titus was editor in chief of Volume 238 of The Stanford Daily, serving from July 2010 to January 2011. Contact her at elizabethmtitus@gmail.com.