Stanford announced the creation of the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Education Title IX Office on Sept. 18, which combines the teams of the Title IX, Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse Education and Response, and Sexual Harassment Policy Offices.
Additionally, the University released two new sexual violence procedures within the SHARE Office: the SHARE Hearing Procedure, which applies in cases in which the alleged perpetrator is a student or faculty member, and the SHARE Investigation Procedure, which applies in cases in which the alleged perpetrator is a staff member or postdoctoral scholar. These policies apply to incidents reported from Aug. 14, 2020 onward.
The changes were made in the wake of new Title IX regulations released by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in May of 2020. Under the federal government’s revised regulations, the definition of sexual harassment has been restricted to “unwelcome conduct that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive,” and universities must hold live hearings in which both perpetrators and survivors of sexual violence are cross-examined. Also, they are not required to investigate instances of sexual violence that do not occur within specific on-campus programs.
Universities, however, are permitted to create ancillary policies to cover areas no longer protected by Title IX regulations, which is what the SHARE procedures are designed to do. According to the SHARE procedures, “Given the jurisdictional limits of Title IX, Stanford deemed it imperative under both state law and under its own policies to provide this companion procedure to the Title IX Procedure to address allegations of violations of Administrative Guide 1.7.1 … that do not meet the jurisdictional threshold under Title IX.”
Section 1.7.1 of the Administrative Guide lays out University policies regarding sexual harassment, particularly the classification of policy violations, resources for survivors and ways in which survivors can report alleged perpetrators.
Policy violations covered under the SHARE procedures include incidents of sexual assault and harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and intimidation, so long as these violations cannot be addressed under the current Title IX Procedure.
Survivor advocates have criticized the SHARE procedures for not adequately protecting survivors of sexual violence. In an interview with The Daily, law professor Michele Dauber contended that the new SHARE procedures are not sufficiently broad in their determination of whether a case should be further investigated.
According to Dauber, the previous Title IX administrative process allowed for a formal investigation in all cases, except those in which “there is no ongoing risk of harm to the community.” Dauber said that the new SHARE procedures do not provide this same broad coverage.
The SHARE procedures apply if the perpetrator was a student, faculty member, staff member or postdoctoral scholar at both the time of the policy violation and the time of the report. According to Dauber, this rule could result in a case in which a student commits an act of sexual violence but then graduates, and if the survivor reports the act of violence after the perpetrator has graduated, Stanford would not investigate. If that same perpetrator returned to Stanford in the capacity of a graduate student or a faculty member, the University would not have investigated the case.
Campus survivor advocates Julia Paris ’21, Maia Brockbank ’21 and Krithika Iyer ’21 agreed that the SHARE procedures are not broad enough. “The biggest issue with the SHARE procedures is their limited scope,” they wrote in a joint statement to The Daily. “These policies likely exclude the majority of sexual violence that will be occurring while most students are off campus this year. The narrow scope of these procedures seems to indicate that Stanford is aiming to evade liability instead of protecting survivors.”
Dauber also took issue with the terminology found in Article II of the SHARE Hearing Procedure, particularly the sections which state that the procedure applies if “the University has the ability to conduct a thorough investigation into the Policy Violation” and that “the Policy Violation would constitute a serious crime if true.”
According to Dauber, the terms used to define the conditions under which Stanford will conduct an investigation are too vague. “What is serious sexual misconduct? I thought it was all serious,” she said. “Isn’t that what Stanford’s always saying — we take sexual harassment and assault very seriously?”
Paris, Brockbank and Iyer added that the University was not sufficiently transparent in the process of drafting and releasing the SHARE procedures.
“No student input was gathered at all before the procedures were released and implemented,” they wrote. “Furthermore, Stanford did not even notify students when the procedures were released.”
In response, University spokesman E.J. Miranda wrote that “Professor Dauber has shared her concerns about the jurisdictional scope of the SHARE procedures with the university and her concerns are currently under review. These procedures were released as pilots so that we could be nimble around making appropriate changes and the community is welcome to provide input.”
On Sept. 29, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law SB-493, which broadens the scope of Title IX policies in California universities. The passage of this bill could result in amendments to the current SHARE procedures.
Dauber contended that this law would require Stanford to significantly broaden the scope of the SHARE procedures. In an email, Dauber wrote, “I do not think that Article II ‘Applicability of Procedures’ in the SHARE procedure is consistent with this broad mandate to investigate.”
Regarding SB-493, Miranda wrote, “Stanford will be analyzing the law and what changes will need to be made in our policies and procedures to comply with it. As stated in this law, to the extent there are any conflicts with the federal law in this area, the federal law will prevail.”
The new legislation will apply to Stanford when the bill goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.