The ASSU Senate will vote today on whether or not to formally approve the Judicial Affairs Alternative Review Process (ARP) for sexual assault and relationship abuse, a program that has been piloted for two years and has seen a dramatic increase in the number of reported assaults on campus. Most people have attributed this increase in reports to the fact that the ARP is seen as a safer, more personal and more welcoming system in which victims feel more comfortable coming forward. I am concerned that the Senate discussion of the ARP process and articles covering the approval seem to be getting caught up in a few small details and are losing sight of the larger picture.
There seems to be a misconception that the Alternative Review Process is this big bad scary process created with the intent of wrongfully expelling all the men on campus. In fact, the ARP is in place to create an equal system of justice and support both parties in a case of alleged sexual assault or relationship abuse. The language of the ARP includes extensive lists of the rights of the responding student (the alleged perpetrator) and of the impacted party (the alleged victim). In fact, most of these rights are identical and include services such as a personal advisor to see each party through the process and the right of both parties to have their confidentiality upheld to the extent permitted by law and University policy. Both parties also have the right to appeal the verdict (and this right is not going anywhere because, along with the burden of proof, it was one of the Title IX recommendations from the federal government last year). Also, if expulsion is recommended for the responding student by the reviewers, the Provost will have the ultimate say in the matter. And even if the student is expelled, the specific charges will not appear on their transcript; it will just read “discontinued.”
The other question that critics seem to be getting hung up on is the validity of the ARP versus a “real” legal procedure outside of Stanford. Any arguments made by comparing the ARP to other legal procedures are essentially irrelevant: In a “real” legal procedure there might be more than four jurors deciding a case, but also in a “real” legal procedure a guilty verdict would mean about five years in jail and permanently having one’s name on the Sex Offender Registry, not just leaving Stanford with no record of sexual assault on one’s transcript.
So, if we can agree that Stanford is not identical to a complex, real-world legal system whose ultimate goal is to put rapists in jail and make sure they never live within a certain distance from a school or other setting with small children, then what is Stanford’s ultimate goal as an educational institution? Our Fundamental Standard states, “Students at Stanford are expected to show both within and without the University such respect for order, morality, personal honor and the rights of others as is demanded of good citizens.” Just as allowing a student to continue to cheat on exams compromises our academic integrity as an institution, allowing students to assault or abuse other students compromises both our moral integrity as well as the sense of safety and comfort that we work so hard to maintain on this campus. (And just as one might imagine how someone who gets away with cheating on a test might feel comfortable cheating again, research shows that the average perpetrator commits six sexual assaults.) Angela Exson, the Assistant Dean of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse at Stanford, has spent over 12 years working with various issues of sexual assault and relationship abuse and describes the ARP as one of the best existing models of an equitable system around these issues. The ARP allows us to – in addition to the federal Title IX regulations – create a system that is specific to Stanford and to the individual needs and circumstances of all parties involved in each case. And, if we have the opportunity to become a role model of an equitable student judicial process, why wouldn’t we?
Publicity Coordiator, Women’s Community Center