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Dake allegations raise questions about Title IX jurisdiction in alumni cases

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While Ellery Dake ’14 was a Stanford undergraduate, another student — then a member of the football team — allegedly raped her. Nearly eight years later, this January, Dake began pursuing punitive action against him through Stanford’s Title IX Office.

However, after a process that she found to be misleading and ineffectual, Dake was eventually told by the Title IX Office that her case did not fall under the University’s jurisdiction because both she and her alleged rapist are alumni and no longer sufficiently affiliated with Stanford.

In response to Dake’s case, The Daily examined how Stanford and other schools handle complaints of sexual assault brought against non-students, particularly alumni. Stanford says the Title IX Office’s ability to address complaints brought against alumni is limited and varies on a case-by-case basis. Dake — now a Harvard independent researcher who splits time between Cambridge and California while writing a biography — argues that University policies do not do enough to protect the Stanford community from sexual predators.

Coming forward

On Jan. 22, inspired by the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct, Dake began writing letters to men who she felt had sexually violated her while she was an undergraduate. Dake sent letters to seven former Stanford football players, six of whom she said verbally degraded her and one of whom allegedly raped her. Dake also wrote a letter to a second alleged rapist, who is a non-Stanford affiliate.

Dake says that the Stanford football player who raped her did so in the spring of 2010, on a night when she was too drunk to consent to sex.

“I woke up naked in my roommate’s bed in a puddle of my own urine, vaginally sore and confused after a night of drinking,” Dake told The Daily. “The soreness in my vagina persisted for almost a week. I was devastated.”

After realizing that she had had sex and could not remember any of it, Dake said, she told several of her friends, as well as a friend of her alleged rapist, that she’d been raped. She also told the man himself.

“He had clear recollections of the evening’s events and kept asking if I ‘remembered’ that night,” Dake said. “I told him, unequivocally, that I did not, each time he asked.”

The alleged assault, combined with sexual humiliation she says she had been subjected to by other football players, motivated her to send the letters.

“I was really struggling with a lot of issues related to how the football team treated me,” Dake said.  

Then, on Jan. 25 of this year, Dake attempted to use the Callisto platform to report four sexual assaults she says she experienced while attending Stanford, including both of those described in her #MeToo letters as well as two more assaults allegedly committed by a third man who is not affiliated with the University. However, because she no longer had a Stanford email account, Dake was told by the system that she could not submit the reports, so she instead tried to contact the Title IX Office directly.

“I was eventually told … that they did in fact receive my reports, although I received no electronic verification of this” at the time, Dake told The Daily.

After two days of attempting unsuccessfully to get in touch with the Title IX Office through their publicly-listed email address and phone number, Dake decided to make a visit in person. She said that Title IX’s delayed response to her reports had left her feeling concerned and frustrated.

“Imagine, for example, if there was evidence that needed to be collected or people that needed to be spoken to promptly in an investigation like this,” Dake said. “Time is an issue, and I feel like they were just very much dragging their feet.”

On Jan. 29, four days after using Callisto, Dake met with Miranda Tuttle, the Title IX Outreach and Student Resources Manager. According to Dake, Tuttle told her during this meeting that while Title IX lacked jurisdiction over her two alleged non-Stanford-affiliated rapists, they did have the capacity to pursue action against the former Stanford football player to whom she’d sent a letter.

“[Tuttle told me], ‘Oh, you know, we can’t do anything about these three [other] sexual assault reports, but we can do something about [him],’” Dake said.

Dake added that Tuttle conveyed three possible consequences for alumni perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault: a ban from campus, a ban from alumni events and a ban from all Stanford-affiliated events.

According to Vice President for University Communications Lisa Lapin, the University “never encourage[s] complainants to reach out to witnesses” during Title IX proceedings. In fact, the Title IX Administrative Policy explicitly says not to do so because interacting with witnesses could create the appearance of “coaching” witnesses on what to say. But Dake told The Daily that she understood from the interview that she should “find” witnesses for the investigation herself, and “started calling women who [she] hadn’t spoken to in years” afterwards.

One of these women had been Dake’s roommate at the time, and it was in that woman’s bed that the rape allegedly took place. Two others were high school friends visiting campus who had been at a fraternity party with Dake that night, and a fourth was an outcry witness — a person who first hears allegations. Dake also said that a fifth woman had actually seen the assault take place, but didn’t want to be involved in the investigation and so had instead conveyed her story to one of the other witnesses.

“It was a huge deal for me, frankly, to be calling these girls and [asking], ‘Oh, remember that night that I was raped, and would you consider talking to the Title IX investigators who say they’re going to do an investigation?’” Dake said.

Following the meeting with Tuttle, Dake wrote a statement to Stanford Title IX investigators Kristen Kreple and Sophia Khan providing details about her alleged sexual assault, including the witnesses’ contact information.

Dake met with Khan and Kreple on Feb. 6 to conduct an investigatory interview, part of the Title IX Office’s initial inquiry process. However, Dake says that during the interview she became frustrated upon finding out that Khan and Kreple had neither contacted any of the witnesses nor, she claims, read the statement she’d sent them beforehand.

Dake also stated that the subsequent summary of the investigation interview produced by the Title IX Office, which she received on Feb. 21, contained misspellings of witness names.  

“I did so much work as part of the investigation,” Dake said. “I called up witnesses and endured painful conversations, making sure that I could far exceed the standard of proof. I worked on statements that Kristen Kreple and Sophia N. Khan didn’t even [read] before the initial investigatory interview I did with them, contributing to the atmosphere of inadequacy [and] confusion I have come to associate with Stanford’s Title IX Office.”

During the interview, Dake said, she was once again led to believe that punitive action against her alleged rapist was on the table.

“Miranda Tuttle, Sophia N. Khan and Kristin Kreple assured me that three potential disciplinary outcomes were available to me in moving forward with the administrative protocol for Title IX investigations,” Dake wrote in an email originally sent to the Title IX Office and later shared with The Daily. “Never, not once, was I told [he] could not be punished if [their] office decided he was not appropriately ‘affiliated’ with Stanford University. I was told: ‘disciplinary outcomes for alumni are limited but concrete,’ almost word for word.”

Kreple, Khan and Tuttle did not respond to repeated requests for comment on this story. Because Dake declined to waive her privacy rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a federal law that protects access to student education records, both University administrators and Title IX investigators were limited in their ability to discuss her case.

University response

Six days later, on Feb. 27, Dake received an email from Title IX Coordinator Catherine Glaze ’80 JD ’85   — whom Dake says she had not spoken with up to that point — informing her that the Title IX Office would not be proceeding with the investigation because of “a combination of factors at play.”

“We do not have jurisdiction because neither you nor [he] are current Stanford students, and [he] has no ongoing connection to Stanford other than being an alumnus,” Glaze wrote.

Glaze went on to say that Dake should contact the Title IX Office in the future if she or her alleged rapist ever returned to campus as employees or graduate students.

“Please know that I respect your courage in coming forward, and I hope you understand that just because the Title IX Office does not have jurisdiction over your case does not in any way minimize your experience,” Glaze concluded.

After receiving the decision, Dake met with Tuttle to express her disappointment and to say that she felt misled by what the three Title IX investigators had told her regarding their ability to take action against her accused rapist.

According to Dake, Tuttle apologized but said that the Title IX Office’s jurisdiction had changed.

“She said that their understanding of their office’s responsibilities was ‘evolving,’” Dake said. “I honestly don’t know what she meant by that … She said she would take personal responsibility for what happened … [and] she didn’t really elaborate on what she meant by their understanding ‘evolving.’”

Lapin did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment about whether the Title IX Office’s jurisdiction has recently changed or been re-evaluated.

In response to follow-up emails from Dake regarding her verdict, Glaze wrote that investigators do not always know right away if they have jurisdiction over a specific case. She explained that when determining jurisdiction over cases, the Title IX Office considers both whether the alleged conduct would, if proven, violate Stanford policy, and also whether the University’s Title IX Office has jurisdiction over the alleged perpetrator.

“Because it is a two-pronged inquiry and because we do not want to unnecessarily delay an investigation, we pursue both inquiries at once,” Glaze wrote.

Glaze later added that while the alleged conduct was indeed against policy, Title IX did not have jurisdiction over the alleged perpetrator because he had no ongoing affiliation with Stanford, such as being a student, staff member, faculty member, participant in alumni travel, alumni volunteer or mentor.

“You came to us in 2018, eight years after the incident occurred and at a time when neither you nor the responding party is participating in any education program or education activity at Stanford,” Glaze wrote to Dake.

Stanford’s first Annual Title IX/Sexual Harassment Report states that “when Stanford community members experience unwanted conduct by individuals outside of the Stanford community, although Stanford does not have direct disciplinary authority over these individuals, Stanford will take action to assist the Stanford complainant.”

Discussing the Student Title IX Process, Lapin said that a complainant can be “any person who experienced sexual violence at Stanford by a current Stanford student.”

Although Dake fits the “any person” standard, her alleged alumni rapist would not meet the “current Stanford student” definition — meaning her case falls outside the bounds of the student process. Matters outside the student process follow the separate Title IX Administrative Policy.

Under FERPA, Lapin said she could not specifically discuss Dake’s case or how Title IX handled it.

However, speaking about University policy more broadly, she reaffirmed what Glaze told Dake.

“If a complaint comes forward from an alum relating to a Title IX concern that occurred while the alum was a student here, we conduct an initial inquiry to determine whether an investigation is appropriate and feasible under the totality of the circumstances,” Lapin wrote in an email to The Daily. “We consider the seriousness of the allegations, whether evidence and witnesses will be available [and] the amount of time that has passed since the alleged conduct occurred.”

Lapin added that the respondent’s level of connection to Stanford — for example, whether they continue to engage with alumni events or visit campus frequently — is a pertinent factor in the University’s decision.

“Every case requires an individualized analysis to determine if there is a potential current threat to the Stanford community,” she said. The University considers “whether — based on conduct that occurred at or in connection with Stanford and while the accused was a student here — the complainant will not feel welcome at events such as reunions.”

If the case meets those conditions and a policy violation is found to have been committed, the University can then pursue punishments like a campus or event ban.

But because Dake’s accused rapist was an alumnus and had “no ongoing connection to Stanford other than being an alumnus” — as Glaze phrased it in her initial email — Title IX determined that he did not fall within its jurisdiction.

Yet Dake told The Daily that no one at Title IX ever told her that that was a possible outcome.

In a response to Glaze, Dake wrote that Tuttle, Khan and Kreple had all assured her that the three potential disciplinary outcomes were achievable. According to Dake, she’d never been warned that her alleged rapist might not be punished.

“[The Title IX Office] told me [they] could ban [him] from alumni events, campus and other Stanford events,” she said. “I was reassured of that repeatedly by [Kreple, Khan and Tuttle]. They assured me my case had concrete potential disciplinary outcomes. What in the world suddenly took place that negated this jurisdiction they spoke of? And why weren’t all the people who collaborated with me at the Title IX Office well versed in the jurisdictional particularities of their office?”

Glaze disagreed with those criticisms.

“I have spoken with the members of the office who met with you, and their recollections of the conversations differ [significantly] from yours,” Glaze wrote in an email to Dake that Dake shared with The Daily.

“I am deeply sorry for your experiences, but no one in this office ‘encouraged’ you to go forward with a Title IX complaint,” Glaze wrote in addition. “That was your choice.”

Overall, Dake described the Title IX Office as “disorganized” and “impotent.”

“I felt like it was a mess, quite frankly,” she added.

Similar cases

Dake is not alone when it comes to dealing as an alum with an assault she says she experienced as a student.

Kathy Unruh ’93 M.S. ’94 also alleges she was raped by a member of the Stanford football team while they were both undergraduate students. As with Dake, Unruh did not pursue charges at the time of the assault; she did not expect anything would happen if she did, and thought “there was no point [to it] other than shaming and embarrassing” herself.

“I was ashamed and traumatized,” Unruh wrote in an email to the Daily. “I didn’t know who to contact.”

Although Unruh has not encountered her alleged rapist since graduation, she expects that she will at some point.

“I was living and working in Palo Alto for the past year and a half … [and] I really expected to run into him at a football game,” she said.

However, she said she is unconcerned by that prospect.

“I am not afraid of him,” Unruh said. “I would probably insult and shame him, or want to.”

But for Dake, the possibility that she — or someone else — could encounter her alleged rapist is a significant issue. He’s a threat, she told The Daily, and any Title IX system that does not treat him as such is one that fails to meet its commitment to ensuring equal access to education for all.

“Whatever the paradigm is that they’re operating from,” Dake said, “it’s endangering people at Stanford … I just don’t understand how that does not impede equal access to education, if you’re not properly putting barriers in place to protect our community from predators.”

However, it is not unprecedented for alumni to face punitive measures under Title IX. In one case detailed by the 2016-2017 Title IX/Sexual Harassment Report, a male alumnus found to have violated school policy regarding sexual harassment in a “workplace or academic environment” was “barred from further engagement with students.” The report did not specify whether the complainant in the case was a current Stanford student or employee.

Other University policies also suggest a potentially wider Title IX jurisdiction over alumni than that applied to Dake’s alleged rapist.

For instance, following a request for comment on Dake’s case, law professor and activist Michele Dauber pointed to Policy 1.7.3 “Prohibited Sexual Conduct” of the Stanford Administrative Guide, which outlines the University’s policies and jurisdiction surrounding sexual assault claims (among other types of sexual misconduct).

The policy applies to “all students, faculty, staff, affiliates and others participating in University programs and activities,” which Dauber said would presumably cover the case brought forth by Dake.

“An [alumnus] seems to me to clearly fall under the category of ‘others participating in University programs and activities;’ for example, when he comes to Alumni Weekend or comes on campus for any other event or purpose,” Dauber wrote in an email to The Daily. “I am surprised that the University took [the position that it did] since it appears to be contrary to its own policy.”

She added that, because Stanford is situated on private property, punishments like a campus ban or restricted access to alumni events and reunions would be well within the University’s power to enact.

However, Dauber cautioned that she was unfamiliar with the specifics of Dake’s case and the reasons why the Title IX Office declined to pursue punitive action. 

Dauber is publicly known for spearheading the movement to recall Judge Aaron Persky ’84 M.A. ’85 from his position as a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge. Persky has received criticism for his handling of the sexual assault case against former Stanford student Brock Turner, who Persky sentenced to six months in county jail in June 2016. Critics say the sentence was too light.

Several other legal experts declined to respond to The Daily’s request for comment on Stanford’s jurisdiction over alumni Title IX cases.

Other approaches

Similar to Stanford’s protocol, UC Berkeley’s written policies distinguish between how the school responds to sexual assault claims involving current students and how it responds to those involving alumni.

In an email to The Daily, Berkeley’s Senior Director of Strategic Communications Janet Gilmore noted that there is “a formal investigation and adjudication structure in place” for responding to accusations made against “current students, faculty and staff.”

Meanwhile, in cases where an alumnus brings forward a claim about an assault that happened during their time as a student, Berkeley’s Title IX Office “will accept and look into such reports … [with] no time limit.” The alumnus would also have full access to campus support and counseling resources, according to Gilmore.

Stanford policy, meanwhile, calls for the investigation of claims as long as “there could be a current threat to campus safety (for example, because the alleged perpetrator continues to have an ongoing role at Stanford),” Lapin told The Daily via email.

Lapin also said that support resources like the Confidential Support Team (CST), Counseling and Psychological Services and Help Center are only for current students, faculty and staff. However, CST counselors will connect alumni with external resources as necessary.

Yet Stanford and Berkeley share their limited jurisdiction over alumni accused of assault.

In some cases, when the accused rapist has a connection to Berkeley programs or activities and the university has enough control over them, disciplinary action might be possible.

But for the most part, Gilmore wrote, “in cases where an accusation is made against a student, staff or faculty member no longer enrolled here or working here, the campus would likely have no jurisdiction to take disciplinary action against an individual.”

Even within Stanford, there is variation in how University apparati deal with claims of sexual misconduct brought forth against former students.

For instance, in addition to bringing her sexual assault allegations to Title IX, Dake reached out to leadership from Stanford’s football program and the Office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse Education and Response (SARA) to discuss sexism in Stanford’s athletic community.

Dake said she contacted Callie Seidman Dale, associate director of Stanford’s Football Operations, to discuss sexual humiliation she experienced as an undergraduate at the hands of football team members and a broader culture of objectification and misogyny on the team.

Seidman responded that the team was actively working on addressing such issues with its players.

“The Stanford football program has emphasized this topic over the past several years in order to educate student-athletes and prepare them to make the right decisions,” added Tommy Gray, Associate Athletics Director for External Relations, in an email to The Daily. “The year-round efforts, led by head coach David Shaw, include a number of mandatory educational programs, as well as frequent formal and informal conversations during team meetings.”

Dake also contacted Carley Flanery, director of SARA, to discuss similar issues. She said she found SARA significantly easier to work with than Title IX had been.

“The SARA Office has been receptive, open and communicative with me about my concerns,” Dake wrote to the Daily. “I feel valued and cared for by the members of their office.”

 

Contact Ellie Bowen at ebowen ‘at’ stanford.edu and Brian Contreras at brianc42 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Brian Contreras was the Daily's Investigations Editor during the '19-'20 school year. Before that, he was a Managing Editor of the news section. A graduate of Stanford's class of 2020, he studied Science, Technology, and Society with a minor in Anthropology. Brian hails from Washington, DC and is pursuing a career in tech journalism. Contact him at briancontreras42 'at' gmail.com.