On April 18, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights began a new investigation into Stanford for Title IX violations, bringing Stanford’s total number of active Title IX sexual violence cases to five — the most of any university or college in the country.
The Office for Civil Rights is currently investigating 234 Title IX sexual violence cases at 184 colleges and universities to determine whether the institutions mishandled sexual violence complaints. Last week, it announced that it had opened four new investigations in April and May, including the one at Stanford.
One of Stanford’s four other active complaints was filed in December of 2014 by Leah Francis ’14, who criticized Stanford’s response to her report of an off-campus sexual assault submitted at the beginning of the year. Last month, the man accused of assaulting Francis filed a lawsuit against the University for gender discrimination against him throughout his adjudication process.
Another two federal complaints were filed in July of 2015 on behalf of two women who reported assault by the same male student to the University. Both women said that Stanford responded unhelpfully to their allegations. For example, one student alleges in her complaint that her residence dean discouraged her from filing a formal report, and that a CAPS counselor “asked her to consider whether she placed herself in potentially risky situations because she wanted to appear sexually available.”
The University declined to discuss the specifics of the Title IX investigations, citing federal privacy laws. University spokesperson Lisa Lapin stated that Stanford is cooperating with the Office for Civil Rights.
Concern about Stanford’s handling of sexual violence on campus is not new. After the 2015 Campus Climate Survey reported that only 1.9 percent of students were sexually assaulted, some community members questioned the accuracy of the survey, arguing that the survey misleadingly used a narrow definition of sexual assault and combined the responses of men and women. The ASSU Senate has passed resolutions calling for a revision and re-administration of the survey, but the Faculty Senate generally upheld the version administered by the University.
The 2015 Campus Climate Survey also indicated that students may not feel comfortable reporting sexual violence at Stanford. According to the report on the 2015 Campus Climate Survey, released by the Office of the Provost and the Office of Institutional Research and Decision Support, only 2.7 percent of victims formally report sexual assaults at Stanford.
Over the past year, both students and faculty have expressed concern about Stanford’s policies on sexual assault. At a town hall in November, students argued that the survey conveyed a lack of commitment, on the part of the University, to confronting the issue of campus sexual violence. The following month, several faculty issued an open letter criticizing Stanford’s proposed Draft Process for adjudicating allegations of sexual assault. The Draft Process was proposed to replace the Alternative Review Process, which was also the subject of controversy.
Contact Blanca Andrei at bandrei ‘at’ stanford.edu.