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SoCo on sexual assault policy will become FEMGEN course


Next year, a Sophomore College (SoCo) class delving into campus sexual assault – an explosive issue of late for both Stanford and colleges nationwide – will become a normal course offering in the feminist, gender and sexuality studies (FGSS) department.

“One in Five: The Law, Policy and Politics of Campus Sexual Assault” has been offered for the past two summers as part of a sophomore-only program in which students focus intensively on a single topic for three weeks before fall quarter. Created and taught by Frederick I. Richman Professor of Law Michele Dauber, a prominent advocate for sexual assault victims and outspoken critic of University policy, the course has garnered local media attention for its in-depth examination of a contentious topic.

“The course raises issues that matter to each of us individually but above all matter to us as a community,” said Adrian Daub, professor of German studies and comparative literature, who chairs the FGSS department.

Daub said he was “immediately” interested when Dauber approached him last October, in part because many FGSS majors and minors have already taken it. While the topic of “One in Five” would not be new territory for FGSS, Daub was enthusiastic about the course’s concentration.

“I think that certainly with the specificity – the Stanford focus – and at the same time the academic focus of Michele’s class, it’ll take us in a new direction,” he said.

In discontinuing her SoCo course and migrating it to a standard, 10-week class in FGSS, Dauber hopes to give students more time to process dense and often emotionally difficult material while preserving the original course’s small-group setting and emphasis on guest speakers. A $170,000 grant from the Herman P. and Sophia Taubman Foundation to support Dauber’s teaching helped convince Dauber to explore a new class format; much of the funding will go toward bringing in guests that her SoCo students traveled to Washington, D.C. to see.

In transitioning formats, Dauber also hopes to avoid what she criticizes as constraints on her academic freedom to teach her SoCo course.

“The University has repeatedly interfered with my academic freedom to teach the class,” Dauber wrote in an email to Russell Berman, Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities and professor of comparative literature, who oversees SoCo offerings as faculty director for Introductory Seminars. “I believe that this has been done in retaliation for my Title IX advocacy and for the Title IX advocacy of the students who have taken the course.”

Dauber believes the class will draw less attention under the umbrella of FGSS, a department that already examines gender-based violence closely. She also thinks the FGSS class could be “less high-profile” than her SoCo course because SoCo classes are relatively expensive for the University – in her words, “showpieces.”

Dauber told The Daily that she felt supported by Berman, who invited her to offer the SoCo class again this summer and said she would be “high on [his] list” if she wishes to return in the future. However, Dauber criticized the Stanford administration’s response to aspects of “One in Five.”

In particular, she referenced a statement that University spokesperson Lisa Lapin made last year to the Huffington Post in the wake of a controversial Stanford survey on sexual assault that 90 percent of voters in a student referendum would later call to re-administer. Lapin said opposition to the survey came from “a single primary critic and the students who were in her class”; Dauber viewed the statement as inappropriate.

“It has particularly bothered me that my students have themselves been subjected to public criticism by the University in the newspapers for their advocacy,” she wrote in the email to Berman.

In response, Lapin told The Daily over email that “the University administration has had nothing to do with Prof. Dauber’s class or the content of her class,” noting that faculty members oversee SoCo curriculum. She said the Huffington Post quote was given as context about a single event, the campus survey.

“The comment has since been wildly misreported and misconstrued,” Lapin wrote.

Saying that “there has been no retaliation” and that “it would be helpful” to understand Dauber’s evidence, Lapin emphasized that Stanford was supportive of Dauber’s SoCo and offered her special funding for travel and other costs associated with “One in Five.”

“The university went out of its way to allow her to continue her class within Sophomore College,” she said.

Some students from Dauber’s class also clashed with administrators during the first summer the course was offered when, as part of their final projects, they demonstrated and passed out flyers on sexual assault during New Student Orientation. One student who broke a University policy by placing some of his flyers on car windows was promptly told by the dean of undergraduate advising and research to stop all flyering. The dean claimed the activity was not allowed on the first day of NSO – a rule absent from published guidelines.

The Taubman Foundation, whose board includes Stanford alumni, reached out to Dauber over the summer after reading about her in the news and asked what they could do to help her work, ultimately encouraging her to apply for its grant.

$50,000 of the money will go toward a May conference of Title IX scholars, lawyers and activists that Dauber is co-chairing, titled “The Way Forward: Title IX Advocacy in the Trump Era.” The rest of the funding will support enrichment for Dauber’s class for the next five years. Past syllabuses for “One in Five” are jam-packed with speakers ranging from Congresswoman Jackie Speier to Kirby Dick, director of an acclaimed documentary on campus sexual assault, “The Hunting Ground.”

The class, to be held next winter quarter, will expand slightly from 12 students to 18. Admission is application-based. Dauber hopes to retain more of Sophomore College’s intimacy by building group activities into the course – dinner at her house or perhaps even an optional ski trip.

While Dauber was enthusiastic about adapting her SoCo course, she hopes the FGSS class will not deter students in a wide range of majors from participating. Emma Tsurkov J.S.M. ’15, a Ph.D. student who was a teaching assistant for the course this past summer, wondered whether FGSS courses would enter the radar of students from different disciplines who were more inclined to explore in SoCo.

Alexis Kallen ’18, who took Dauber’s SoCo two years ago, hopes the new class will allow students to study sexual assault policy in even greater depth.

“I grew through that course more than any other class I have taken at Stanford,” she said.


Contact Hannah Knowles at hknowles ‘at’

This article has been updated to reflect additional comments from Lapin.

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Hannah Knowles is senior staff writer from San Jose who served as Volume 253 Editor-in-Chief. Prior to that, she managed The Daily's news section.