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Stand with Leah activists unsatisfied after discussing sexual assault with Hennessy

Stand with Leah activists are unhappy with a discussion with University President John Hennessy about the handling of the sexual assault case involving Leah Francis '14 (above) and her assailant, another student at the time. (CALEB SMITH/The Stanford Daily)

Stand with Leah activists met with President John Hennessy, Senior University Counsel Lauren Schoenthaler and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Stephanie Kalfayan on Thursday to speak about sexual assault at Stanford.

Stand with Leah activists are unhappy with a discussion with University President John Hennessy about the handling of the sexual assault case involving Leah Francis '14 (above) and her assailant, another student at the time. (CALEB SMITH/The Stanford Daily)
Stand with Leah activists are disappointed with a discussion they had on Thursday with University President John Hennessy, including administrators’ position on the handling of the sexual assault case involving Leah Francis ’14 (above) and her assailant, another student. (CALEB SMITH/The Stanford Daily)

The meeting with the President had been requested “in order to discuss [Leah Francis ’14’s] demands” as well as to understand why Francis, Stand with Leah activists and their faculty supporters were “being excluded from committee membership,” according to a post on the Stand with Leah Facebook page.

The group made it clear in its Facebook post that it was unsatisfied with the administrators’ position on certain elements of Francis’ case: namely, the decision to defer Francis’ assailant’s suspension until after his graduation and the time it took for the University to make a ruling and remove the student from campus.

“The President stated that he was sorry that Leah had been sexually assaulted,” the group wrote, “but denied that Stanford had violated Title IX, or indeed, that any mistakes had been made in her case.”

“President Hennessy welcomes input from all members of the campus community,” wrote Brad Hayward, a Stanford spokesperson, in an email to The Daily, “and welcomed the opportunity to hear from this group of students.”

On Thursday, the Stand with Leah activists also expressed their concern with the appointments to the Provost’s new faculty-student committee, which was formed last month.

The committee will be tasked with improving educational efforts surrounding sexual assault and harassment, as well as studying the University’s disciplinary processes for reported cases. According to activists, the committee included neither sexual assault survivors nor faculty with expertise in the area.

“We were particularly hopeful that law professor Michele Dauber, who formerly was faculty co-chair of the Board on Judicial Affairs and was one of the primary authors of current university policy would be appointed,” the Stand with Leah Facebook post stated. “We were told that Professor Dauber, who assisted Leah in her appeals and was highly critical of Stanford’s handling of Leah’s case in the media ‘just wasn’t going to happen.’”

The full membership of the committee is not yet known, aside from its co-chairs, Dean of the Law School M. Elizabeth Magill and ASSU President Elizabeth Woodson ’15. However, Hayward said that the other members would be announced shortly.

The University expects the committee to solicit input from the Stanford community about ARP reform and handling of sexual assault cases at Stanford. This point was criticized by Stand with Leah supporters as well.

“University officials seemed to think that survivors would approach committee members and ‘be happy to tell their story,’” the group’s Facebook post continued. “They seemed completely baffled by the idea that survivors would feel hesitant or unsafe telling their stories of staff incompetence, mishandling, and lack of legal compliance to the committee.”

 

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

 

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