In a panel held by the Stanford Law Students against Gendered Violence (SLS GiVe), administrators at Stanford discussed the effects of the Department of Education’s new Title IX interim guidelines, both for Stanford’s policies and the nation at large.
Cathy Glaze, Stanford’s Title IX director, Senior Associate Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Access Lauren Schoenthaler and Carley Flanery, director of the Office of Sexual Assault & Relationship Abuse Education & Response, explained the impact of the new policies on campus sexual assault adjudication procedures and received audience questions.
The forum opened with an explanation of post-Obama-era changes in the Title IX guidelines. In 2011, the Obama administration released its “Dear Colleague Letter,” which provided detailed guidelines on the procedures a university must follow in investigations of sexual assault. These guidelines included the use of the “preponderance of evidence” standard to find responsibility, the option for students to consult advisors and the right of both parties to appeal if one is given the option. The letter also disfavored direct cross-examination of the accused by the complainant and allowed universities a 60-day window to complete investigations. In 2014, the Obama administration released 50 pages of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to supplement these guidelines.
“I think [this] was quite instrumental in getting universities across the country to have sexual assault and sexual violence top-line,” said Schoenthaler. “I think this document has done a lot of good for victims.”
However, in September, the new Trump administration withdrew both documents, removed existing FAQs to leave only 11 and released a new question-and-answer document on universities’ responsibility to address sexual misconduct. This document moves away from Obama-era preponderance of evidence standards, allowing schools to choose between that and a higher “clear and convincing” standard of guilt. It also stipulates that the standard of proof used in cases of sexual misconduct should equal that which is used in other student conduct cases, and allows schools to provide an appeals process to either both parties or to only the respondent in a case.
Despite these revisions, Schoenthaler explained that the changes made by the Trump administration do not affect Stanford’s own policies.
“That is guidance; it is not law,” she said.
When asked how Stanford will respond to the changes, Schoenthaler said that no action will be taken immediately and that the policies currently in place are only temporary measures.
“Stanford isn’t doing anything while we watch the dust to settle, and absolutely we have great protection in the state of California.”
She added that the administration and campus leaders have been “appropriately aggressive” and that the University hopes to have a “fair and equitable [process] for both parties.”
“[We are] wanting a process where victims feel comfortable coming forward,” Schoenthaler said.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration also withdrew Obama-era protections for transgender students’ right to use public school restrooms corresponding to their gender identity.
Schoenthaler stated that transgender students at Stanford were protected from these changes by the University’s own policy.
“In California, your gender expression and gender identity are protected [by law],” she said. “This is also the case in Stanford’s anti-discrimination laws. I think that California is one of the three most progressive states for protecting victims.”
Schoenthaler added that California offers “specific, prescriptive guidance” for sexual assault cases, emphasizing the state law requiring that an affirmative consent standard be used in adjudicating these cases.
Flanery also outlined new on-campus education programs that aim to teach students skills related to consent and communication such as practicing healthy behaviors, reflecting on personal values, being an “upstander,” accepting rejection gracefully and fostering dialogue with partners, among others.
According to Flanery, “all [these approaches] are grounded from a lens of intersectionality.”
Other programs Stanford has implemented include the SAVE: Stanford Anti-Violence Educators initiative, which trains undergraduates as peer educators, as well as the Violence & Intervention Program aimed at the Greek community.
In response to an audience question about what the biggest flaw in Stanford’s current adjudication process may be, Glaze stated that she was satisfied with the current procedures in place.
“I’m a pretty much a fan of the current system,” she said. “I don’t think any system can be perfect but we try to be very attentive and very respectful so that we get the full story from each side.”
However, she added, “The flaw is that it has to occur in the first place.”
Both Glaze and Flanery concurred that the criminal procedure and Title IX guidelines are limited in the forms of justice they can fulfill for victims.
After sexual violence, said Glaze, “You can never make anybody whole [again].”
Contact Sophie Stuber at [email protected]
This post has been updated. A previous version attributed a quote to Cathy Glaze; it was actually from Carley Flanery. The Daily regrets this error.