In a Sept. 7 speech at George Mason University, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced her intention to rewrite existing guidance on investigating campus sexual assault under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. “The era of ‘rule by letter’ is over,” she stated, referring to the 2011 Dear Colleague letter which outlines several key survivor-centric guidelines for Title IX investigations.
The Dear Colleague letter clarifies that schools should use a preponderance of the evidence in Title IX investigations and recommends that investigations should be completed within 60 days. It was a strong commitment by the federal government to strengthen and broaden the protections universities must provide to survivors. The 2011 Dear Colleague letter carries huge importance for survivors as an important enforcement mechanism to ensure that universities are compliant with Title IX and that student civil rights are protected and upheld.
Secretary DeVos’s intention to rescind the Dear Colleague letter is alarming and upsetting. It signals a federal move to strip away civil rights guarantees for survivors of sexual assault, and it provides voice to those who shame and silence survivors. Both these outcomes are unacceptable. As the Associated Students of Stanford University, we stand with survivors.
This announcement is distressing and creates a huge shadow of uncertainty over what university Title IX policies will look like. We hope to address some of your questions about what will happen at Stanford (short answer: nothing will change) and encourage you to speak your voice and take care of yourselves.
Q&A with Lauren Schoenthaler, Senior Associate Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Access, and Cathy Glaze, Title IX Coordinator
Q: What are the national implications of rescinding the Dear Colleague letter’s guidelines?
A: The Dear Colleague letter is still online. We cannot state what will happen at other colleges, but at Stanford, our process was drafted to comply with [the Dear Colleague letter], state law and [the Violence Against Women Act], and it provides additional protections not required by any of those laws (such as an independent review of evidence by a third party). Stanford has no plans to retreat from any protections provided to students in our Title IX processes.
Q: What will happen to the Stanford Title IX office if the Dear Colleague letter is rescinded?
A: As described above, we have no plans to alter the existence or function of our Title IX Office. In fact, as of Monday, Sept. 11, our office has expanded to include another full-time investigator.
As Provost Drell noted in her statement, “Stanford operates under California law, which in many respects goes beyond the guidance in the 2011 Dear Colleague letter — including requiring affirmative consent and the preponderance of the evidence standard for Title IX cases. We provide additional resources not mandated by law, as well.”
Q: What is Stanford, as an institution, doing to push for sexual assault policy reform? At the state level? At the national level?
A: Stanford is active in the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU) organization, which is working with California senator Hannah-Beth Jackson on SB 169, a law that puts forward procedural requirements for addressing sexual violence at the K-12 and postsecondary education levels.
At the national level, Stanford plans to participate in the comment process announced Sept. 7 after reviewing any content issued by the Department of Education. Stanford will make these comments public [and] encourages community members to participate in this process as well.
Stanford will continue to look for ways to make its voice heard on these important issues at both the state and federal level. And most importantly, Stanford will continue to work hard every day to eradicate sexual violence from our own campus.
Q: Who can I talk to if I have questions or want to learn more about Stanford’s Title IX process?
A: Professor Pamela Karlan, Stanford Law School, Chair of the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault Policies and Practices ([email protected]), Catherine Glaze, Title IX Coordinator ([email protected]) and Lauren Schoenthaler, Senior Associate Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Access ([email protected]).
Thanks to Lauren Schoenthaler and Catherine Glaze for their prompt and diligent replies on Stanford’s Title IX policy, especially on such short notice.
The biggest unanswered question now may be: what can I do?
One clear opportunity is to provide public comments when the Department of Education opens its new policy guidelines for feedback. You can sign up through It’s On Us to receive an email once the comment period opens.
Know Your IX has created a toolkit with immediate actions you can take to #StopBetsy. End Rape on Campus has an ongoing #ReclaimRedZones campaign, which includes actions specific to preserving the 2011 Dear Colleague letter. Miss Representation tweeted a calling script you can use to ask your senators and representatives to protect Title IX guidance.
If you’re looking to learn more about Title IX, why it covers sexual violence and what the 2011 Dear Colleague letter covers, we recommend visiting the Know Your IX and National Women’s Law Center websites. To support some great survivor-led nonprofits working every day to support survivors and advocate on behalf of survivors to the federal government, we recommend looking at End Rape on Campus, Know Your IX or SurvJustice.
To push movement in Stanford’s Title IX policy, you can provide feedback to the Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault Policies and Practices. Stanford has indicated that it will provide public comments to the Department of Education once it opens. We’ve provided a form on the online version of this article that you can fill out with your recommendations of what you would like Stanford to stress to the Department of Education, and we will pass along your comments to Provost Drell.
If you’re seeking support, you can visit notalone.stanford.edu for resources and to report a sexual assault, contact the Confidential Support Team at (650) 725-9955, seek peer counseling at the Bridge or make an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).
Justice Tention ’18, President of the Associated Students of Stanford University
Vicki Niu ’18, Vice President of the Associated Students of Stanford University
Shanta Katipamula ’19, former Chair of the ASSU Undergraduate Senate
Contact Justice Tention at jtention ‘at’ stanford.edu, Vicki Niu at vniu ‘at’ stanford.edu and Shanta Katipamula at skatipam ‘at’ stanford.edu.