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7 months after external review of sexual misconduct policies, here’s how Stanford has responded

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In the seven months since a committee of administrators from peer institutions conducted an External Review of Stanford’s Sexual Misconduct Practices, the University has made changes to incorporate reviewers’ recommendations, including establishing the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Education office, providing attorney services in all procedures for student complainants and elevating the Title IX coordinator role. However, student and faculty activists are still concerned that Stanford’s responses to the review do not sufficiently address issues identified by reviewers. 

The committee identified inconsistencies across sexual misconduct procedures, low trust in University resources and confusion among community members about sexual misconduct practices. 

Some activists, including those who expressed concern about the independence of the committee when the reviewers were announced in February, are also frustrated by the report’s delayed public release. Though it was made available to Provost Drell on May 28, the report was not referenced in any of Stanford’s public communications until the University’s announcement of the SHARE office in September. 

“We were aware when the report was finalized and had been asking to see it from the day that it was finalized until the day it was released,” said Associated Students of Stanford University Co-Director of Sexual Violence Prevention Julia Paris ’22 . “It was frustrating knowing that, by the time we were actually able to see it, the processes and policies that it was actually written about weren’t applicable anymore.”

ASSU Co-director of Sexual Violence Prevention Maia Brockbank ’21 said that the delay could diminish community trust in the University. 

“There’s such severe mistrust between students and survivors and the University right now,” Brockbank ’21 said. “They didn’t take the bare minimum step to at least be transparent and timely with this process.”

University spokesperson E.J. Miranda justified the delay, referencing newly released Title IX regulations from the Board of Education.

“[The review] had to be assessed in light of the new Title IX regulations that were issued on May 6, which also required substantial change in the university’s procedures to address sexual assault/harassment,” he wrote in a statement to The Daily. 

Prior to the establishment of the SHARE procedures, the reviewers wrote that inconsistencies in TIX procedures and supports available to complainants based on the status of the respondent (either a student or a member of the faculty or staff) promoted “a sense of inequity.” They wrote that the inconsistencies could discourage students from bringing forth allegations regarding faculty or staff conduct.

Law professor and activist Michele Dauber said she was concerned that the SHARE procedures remain divided into two separate processes — the SHARE Hearing Procedure for Students and Faculty and the SHARE Investigation Procedure for Staff and Postdoctoral Students — with key differences in access to attorney services and neutral decision makers. 

“The problem is baked into these multiple policies and procedures that provide different rights and remedies depending on the status of the accused perpetrator,” Dauber said. “And so as long as that distinction is baked in with Stanford’s procedures, students will come away feeling betrayed and not trusting the university.”

Miranda wrote that the new procedures have improved upon issues of inequity by ensuring attorney services for student complainants regardless of respondent status, even though the amount of time allowed with attorneys varies across procedures. 

Reviewers additionally observed “a consistent call for more clarity about procedures and resources” and for “a single point of entry” among Stanford’s various offices offering sexual misconduct resources. 

Stanford’s creation of the SHARE office, as well as the development and community-wide distribution of an educational video, were significant parts of its response to this recommendation, according to Miranda.

Stanford is also in the process of hiring a permanent Title IX coordinator to replace Catherine Glaze, who has held the interim position for a year. Stanford wrote in its announcement of the SHARE office that it will incorporate the reviewers’ recommendations, which called for elevating the coordinator position to oversee multiple offices and coordinate their efforts.  

Changes to support resources

The review’s recommendations for Stanford’s Confidential Support Team, an office that provides professional counseling for community members impacted by sexual violence, included reducing long-term care services to facilitate the expansion of short-term care. The review also recommended that the University broadly re-examine the provision of CST services to both complainants and respondents, and the way these services are provided.

Dauber expressed concern that CST’s singular location, where both complainants and respondents access services, could negatively impact the value of the space for survivors. 

“They are not providing a safe therapeutic environment for survivors, if they are also counseling perpetrators in the safe space,” Dauber said, “there is no way that survivors will trust them or want to go there if they’re concerned that they could run into their perpetrator in the hallway.”

When asked about the recommendation to review the way in which CST provides services to these two groups, CST director Helen Wilson wrote that the team has “continued to ask for support from our leadership to evaluate how support services are provided to complainants (or students who self-identify as having harmed someone or being accused of harm).”

Resident Assistant Title IX training 

Reviewers identified that in some situations, resident assistants “are reluctant to report instances of sexual misconduct to the appropriate administrators.” In response, they recommended expanded RA Title IX training with a particular focus on reporting obligations and responsibilities. 

RA Salvador Antonio Tello ’21, who filled the role previously during the 2019-20 academic year, said he believes that RA Title IX training for the 2020-21 academic year suffered from the absence of in-person simulations. He wrote in a statement to The Daily that written materials did, however, seem “more developed” than in past years.  

“They do indeed cover a wider scope than previous trainings did,” Tello wrote. “The materials placed a greater emphasis on how to have conversations not only with survivors of sexual assault, but also with students that may be reported and under investigation for Title IX related incidents. There was also greater emphasis on the resources available and we spent more time discussing how they differ.”

Miranda also described changes to RA training materials.

“RAs were required to complete a comprehensive training module on sexual assault and harassment response, which included that video — as well as other recorded, written, and interactive content — as part of their RA training,” Miranda wrote, referencing the same educational video. 

Carley Flanery, the director of the Office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse (SARA) Education and Response, did not respond to a request for comment on the reviewers’ recommendations to expand training resources. 

The external review is currently linked on the report section of Stanford’s Institutional Equity and Access website.

This article has been updated to reflect that Carley Flanery is the director of the Office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse (SARA) Education and Response, not the director of the SHARE Education Team. The Daily regrets this error.

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