Just before winter break, a group of five professors released a letter to faculty outlining their concerns with the University’s new Student Title IX procedures for adjudicating allegations of sexual violence. The letter’s authors consisted of sociology professor Shelley Correll M.A. ’96 Ph.D. ’01, law professor Michele Dauber, history professor Estelle Freedman, literature professor David Palumbo-Liu and professor of medicine Marcia Stefanick Ph.D. ’82.
On Thursday, Stanford released the results of its Campus Climate Survey, administered confidentially online in spring 2015. According to the survey, 1.9 percent of respondents have experienced sexual assault, as defined in the University policy, since starting their degree programs at Stanford, and 14.2 percent have experienced another form of misconduct.
On Wednesday, the Task Force on Sexual Assault Policies and Practices recommended making expulsion the expected sanction for students who have violated University policy on sexual assault and removing undergraduates from the panels that will adjudicate those cases.
While Stanford has a concrete definition of sexual assault, the SARA Office affirmed that before even consulting legal definitions, it is first up to the survivor to define what happened based on how they feel. I personally do not want to press charges; we both strayed blindly into grey areas that night. Luckily, I came out the other side without any traumatic emotional scarring or depression. However, not everyone may be so lucky if put in this situation. Never once have I called this woman my “attacker” or “assailant” because I didn’t emotionally respond as though it were an attack or an assault. To me, she’s just a student that made a mistake. However, she does deserve to know that what she did is defined as sexual assault. What she does not deserve is expulsion. We need to understand that we can’t solve these grey issues with black and white statements and punishments.
First, the ARP does allow students the opportunity to challenge reviewers. Students are provided with the names of their case reviewers in advance of their hearing. If a student objects to the presence of particular reviewers on his or her panel, and can demonstrate good cause for removing those reviewers, substitutions will be made. Second, due process requires that a student charged with a violation of the Fundamental Standard or any other Stanford policy receive notice of the nature of the charge against him or her, and the opportunity to respond to the charge.
Stanford is required to investigate, determine guilt on the “preponderance of evidence” standard, and take appropriate action. Title IX, in essence, forces universities like Stanford to become paralegal systems; something a university is ill-equipped to handle and results in inappropriate responses to sexual assault cases.
In a meeting that lasted over three hours, the 16th Undergraduate Senate met Tuesday night, setting a special election for funding reform and taking a stance on sexual assault reform efforts led by the University and the ASSU’s Executive Branch.
Stand with Leah supporters met with University President John Hennessy on Thursday and left the discussion disappointed, citing the administrators’ position on how Leah Francis ’14’s case was handled and recent appointments to the new faculty-student committee tasked with studying the University’s disciplinary processes for reported cases.