After advocates found that the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Education (SHARE) Investigation Procedure documents had errors left in the procedure due to a lack of version control, The University confirmed the lack of version control and apologized in an email to The Daily. Advocates, however, contend that the misstep may have harmed survivors by creating a chilling effect on reporting.
“All of us engaged in drafting the procedures are deeply sorry for these errors; we understand that trust in our Title IX procedures is a critically important element in reducing sexual harassment and violence on our campus,” wrote Vice Provost Lauren Schoenthaler in a statement.
The concerns were first brought up at a February meeting in which survivor advocates called upon the Stanford administration to investigate and revise discrepancies between the SHARE Hearing and SHARE Investigation Procedures.
At the meeting, advocates raised concerns about the discrepancies between the SHARE Investigation Procedure and other existing policies, such as the SHARE Hearing Procedure. In particular, they pointed to the lack of a strong rape shield in the SHARE Investigation Procedure. While other existing policies prevent a survivor’s past sexual history from being scrutinized during an investigation, the SHARE Investigation Procedure did not offer the same protection — an unintentional version control error, in which versions of the procedures were not screened for errors. The procedures have now been revised to offer the same protections for survivors.
Schoenthaler took responsibility for the version control problem. Going forward, changes will be logged to ensure that further version control errors do not occur.
“When improvements to the procedures were made in late October, the improvements were inadvertently drafted onto pre-published drafts that did not capture the final changes that had been made prior to publication,” she wrote. “The SHARE Title IX team is very grateful to Professor Michele Dauber and student advocates who pointed out that the past sexual history language had changed from the originally published SHARE Investigation Procedure.”
Law professor Michele Dauber stated that the previous lack of a rape shield was the result of a lack of strong version control in the SHARE Investigation Procedure.
“The University lost control of these procedures, and there were many versions that were out there that were not correct,” she said.
Dauber also raised concerns that the lack of a rape shield may have discouraged survivors from coming forward or perhaps even affected the outcomes of their cases: “For the period from at least Oct. 27 until [late February], the version that was posted online was incorrect in many respects,” she said. “That means that anyone who filed a complaint … during the last many months may have [experienced] procedural errors that affected the outcome of their case.”
According to Schoenthaler, no cases involving past sexual history were investigated under the SHARE Investigation Procedure.
Dauber, however, disputed characterizations that no students were affected by the lack of version control.
“There is no way that [the administration] could know that, because some students may have looked at that rule and decided not to file a complaint during the time that rule was on the Internet,” she said.
Dauber added that she was concerned that students could still be unaware that the discrepancies between procedures were never intended to be implemented. Additionally, she said that the lack of version control was a symptom of the larger problem posed by having three different procedures — the SHARE Procedures as well as the Title IX Procedure — with different scopes and policies contained within them.
Julia Paris ’21, who serves on the ASSU Committee on Sexual Violence Prevention and Survivor Support and is a co-founder of SVFree Stanford, said the lack of version control pointed to larger problems with Stanford’s approach to preventing sexual violence.
“The fact that they weren’t even able to ensure that they had the right version control is symptomatic of a larger problem where they’re not investing enough resources to make sure that the system works for survivors,” said Paris.
Fellow survivor advocate Maia Brockbank ’21 concurred, adding, “This just continues to build on systems of distrust. There are probably a lot of people out there who are seeing that this is not a consistent or easily digestible policy and so are just not coming forward in the first place.”