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Provost releases second annual Title IX report, qualified by underreporting

Courtesy of Stanford News

The 2017-2018 Title IX/Sexual Harassment report — the second annual report of its kind — details statistics on the 221 incidents of sexual misconduct, stalking and relationship violence reported in the 2017-2018 academic year and the 57 investigations into those incidents without revealing details of the individual cases.

The 24-page report, released Tuesday morning, is part of the University’s effort to track the success of its pilot Title IX process, effective since 2016. The pilot process uses the “preponderance of evidence standard” when evaluating responsibility and requires a unanimous vote from a three-person panel to find an accused individual guilty.

“Publishing an annual report is one of the efforts that we are making as a community to hold ourselves accountable on this issue,” wrote Provost Persis Drell in a letter to the Stanford community.

The 221 instances of reported misconduct from 2017-18 mark a jump from the 190 incidents reported in 2016-17. The 2017-2018 report also includes five misconduct cases that occurred in the previous academic year but whose investigations were concluded this year.  Additionally, the report includes statistics on interventions, including details on the gender and University affiliations of people who were involved in interventions.

Similarly to 2016-17, roughly one-third of 2017-18 misconduct cases centered on sexual harassment in a workplace or academic setting. In addition, there were 26 instances of non-consensual intercourse, a slight decrease from the 29 such incidents reported in 2016-17.

Of the 57 investigations carried out by the Title IX office, in only one case did an actual hearing occur. Three-quarters of the others were resolved through an administrative process.

The vast majority of cases included a female complainant and male respondent; however, in cases of relationship violence, the proportion was less disparate.

In her letter to students, Drell emphasized the document’s limitations, especially due to underreporting.

“We can assume that the actual numbers of incidents of prohibited sexual conduct at Stanford are probably greater than are being reported to us,” she wrote. “There are many reasons for this, such as fear of not being believed or of retaliation.”

However, Stanford Law Professor and Title IX activist Michelle Dauber expressed that underreporting may result from what she perceives as a lack of accountability in the Title IX process.

“Compared to last year there were fewer hearings and fewer consequences,” she wrote in an email to The Daily. “Faculty members were given “warnings.” Students were given “no contact” directives and counseling,” she wrote in an email to The Daily. “No one was expelled, only one student was even suspended. There is a complete lack of accountability, so it is no wonder survivors are deciding not to go to a hearing.”

The Daily reached out to Senior Associate Vice Provost of Institutional Equity & Access Lauren Schoenthaler for comment on this perceived lack of accountability.

Drell’s community letter, issued in tandem with the report itself, highlighted the presence of intoxicants in incidents of misconduct; about 65 percent of nonconsensual encounters involved alcohol, drugs or both.

The Provost also used data from the report to consider whether some groups are more apt to be involved in Title IX proceedings.

Contrary to the common perception that male varsity athletes are more likely to be respondents than other categories of students — an assumption perpetuated nationwide by Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, who assaulted a woman behind a dumpster at a Kappa Alpha party — Drell reported that “the percentage of reports involving male athletes was slightly lower than the overall population of varsity male athletes on campus.”

Drell said that the data was not conclusive as to whether members of fraternities and sororities were more likely to be involved in Title IX proceedings.

Title IX-adjacent issues have pervaded the Stanford community and surrounding area over the past year, particularly in the wake of the #MeToo movement. The 2017-18 report emerges amidst Stanford’s recent involvements in cases of sexual misconduct that have received nationwide attention,  including Stanford affiliate Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and the recall of Judge Aaron Persky ’84 M.A. ’85, who raised sharp criticism for handing down a lenient sentence to Turner after he was convicted of  three felony counts of sexual assault.

Last week, The Daily reported on claims of discrepancies between statements and practices in Stanford’s Title IX process, and limits of the Title IX office in some categories of cases, such as emotional abuse.

Drell’s report also follows reports from several women on campus that a man has stalked and harassed them in various locations on campus; one woman filed a report regarding the alleged stalker to the police on Sunday evening.  

“There has been a much-needed national spotlight on sexual violence and sexual harassment,” Drell said.

 

Contact Karen Kurosawa at karen16 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Julia Ingram at jmingram ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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