When Stanford students return to campus this coming September, they will experience a major change in the way the administration handles reports of sexual violence. The Stanford Student Title IX Process, instated as a pilot policy in February 2016, is due for a revision this summer. It is fraught with contentious policy points concerning campus sexual violence — rape definitions, unanimous vote requirements, and provision of legal services — that have led to heated challenges between the administration and student survivors. The policy will be reconsidered at a time when Stanford is under federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for its mishandling of campus sexual violence.
To add to this urgency, Stanford’s current Title IX coordinator Catherine Glaze will be vacating her position, and incoming student leadership must be able to advocate for the right replacement. Students and survivors need leadership from someone who is actively engaged in the campus climate, and, more importantly, has a significant track record in establishing administrative solutions that prioritize diverse survivor needs.
Shanta’s longstanding work in this area have both students and administrators seeking her leadership on multiple reforms. She is currently serving on the Stanford Coalition on Sexual Violence established by this year’s ASSU executives and is a member of the Title IX Working Group, the party responsible for delivering the proposal that will bring clear definitions and improvements to the Title IX process this summer.
Even in this difficult administrative climate, Shanta has revealed that she can bridge the divide between students and administrators. During her term as Chair of the ASSU 18th Undergraduate Senate, Stanford decided not to renew the contract of Stanford-sponsored Title IX Attorney Crystal Riggins, who was the only attorney solely representing survivors. As an accomplished female lawyer of color, Riggins had a record for delivering good outcomes for her clients despite the lengthy and complex reporting process. Shanta elevated student concerns about Riggins’s removal immediately. She authored a Senate resolution demanding an apology from Stanford to Riggins, as well as Riggins’s reinstatement, and she met with Provost Drell to question their decision. Shanta has working relationships with administrators, but is not afraid to hold them accountable to the best interests of students and survivors.
Shanta has also worked to improve sexual assault reporting at Stanford. She organized a three-year pilot of the confidential and third-party sexual assault reporting service Callisto at Stanford, finding a solution both administrators and survivors can trust. Furthermore, she convinced the Title IX Office to redesign their reporting services website to be clearer and better-equipped to guide survivors and address the needs of others seeking support and information.
At a time when survivors have lost trust in the administration, Shanta has proven that survivors can rely on her leadership. Most recently, Shanta co-authored a resolution with current ASSU Senators and student activists demanding that Stanford abandon their plans to re-administer their flawed campus climate survey and instead turn their efforts to administering the Association of American Universities survey used by our peer universities. Shanta introduced within the resolution a mechanism for longer-term accountability — requesting that Stanford establish a standing committee to focus on development and administration of the survey in coming years.
I am a survivor of sexual assault. I reported my rape more than two years ago, and the number of disappointments I have encountered, from the administrators who should have protected survivors to the students who should have supported survivors, are too many to count. But Shanta’s sincerity is unrivaled. I met Shanta just over a year ago, and already I have witnessed her performing above and beyond on her commitment to students and survivors. Many candidates and allies have promised to do the same, and some have contributed important advocacy. Yet it is easy for others to capitalize on our trauma, and far rarer for a leader to elevate our voices.
Shanta and Rosie are the only candidates I trust to help rewrite our Title IX process and select our new Title IX Coordinator. Their committed leadership to this issue is exactly what we need from our student government. To this end, I hope you will join me in voting Shanta Katipamula and Rosie Nelson for ASSU Exec.
Jacqueline Lin ’18