News

Stanford announces members of sexual-assault task force

Group charged with reviewing university policy, handing down recommendations this fall

Stanford University Tuesday named a group of almost 20 students, faculty and staff who will make up a task force charged with reviewing and issuing recommendations on the university's policies on and responses to sexual assault.

The university said in a release that the Task Force on Sexual Assault Policies and Practices, chaired by Stanford Law School Dean M. Elizabeth Magill and Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) President Elizabeth Woodson, will begin work shortly and continue through the upcoming academic year. The task force has been asked to seek input from the campus community and to review and make recommendations about Stanford's activities in three areas: education and prevention, support following an incident and adjudication of reported cases of sexual violence, including both the Title IX investigation process and the disciplinary process. The task force will make its first set of recommendations this fall, the university said.

In addition to Magill and Woodson, the task force members include:

Bryce Anzelmo, a graduate student in energy resources engineering and co-chair of the 2013-14 Graduate Student Council

Russell Berman, the Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities and 2014-15 chair of the Faculty Senate

Nate Boswell, associate dean of Residential Education and liaison to the Row and fraternity and sorority organizations

Shelley Correll, professor of sociology and the Barbara D. Finberg Director of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford

Catherine Criswell, Title IX coordinator at Stanford

Jackie Fielder, undergraduate in public policy and president of the Inter-Sorority Council

Kelsey Finch, undergraduate alumna, Urban Studies, Class of 2008

Adam Horowitz, a graduate student in sociology and member of the Board on Judicial Affairs

Faith Kazmi, associate dean of Student Affairs and director of the Women's Community Center at Stanford

Benjy Mercer-Golden, undergraduate in History, 2014-15 ASSU executive cabinet member

Lauren Schoenthaler, Office of the General Counsel

Marcia Stefanick, professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center and co-director of the Stanford Center for Health Research on Women & Sex Differences in Medicine

Robert Weisberg, the Edwin E. Huddleson, Jr. Professor of Law and faculty co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center

Laura Wilson, Stanford chief of police and director of the Department of Public Safety

Laraine Zappert, clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral science and director of the Sexual Harassment Policy Office at Stanford.

The creation of the task force was sparked by student uproar this spring over the case of senior Leah Francis, who was sexually assaulted by a fellow Stanford student off campus and has claimed the university grossly mishandled the case, even after determining her assailant was responsible for the assault. She went public with her case in early June, right before graduation, organizing large, very vocal protests and demanding that the university reform its sexual assault policy. Her strongest request -- and one that is being increasingly made at college campuses across the nation -- is that Stanford make expulsion the default sanction for students found responsible of sexual assault.

Francis had appealed the sanctions Stanford handed down to her assailant (a five-quarter suspension starting this summer, community service hours and a sexual-assault education program), asking that he be expelled. The university rejected her appeal, deciding to instead withhold the student's diploma for two years.

Francis and other Stanford students who have rallied around her cause have continued to lobby the administration. She and three other students met with President John Hennessy, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Stephanie Kalfayan and Lauren Schoenthaler, senior university counsel, on July 17 to discuss the task force appointments, angry that no sexual-assault survivors were on the list. Brianne Huntsman, a Stanford senior helping Francis, said someone had anonymously sent them a copy of the preliminary list of task-force members.

"Our main goal was to highlight that the sexual assault committee that they appointed doesn't have any outspoken survivors, activists or faculty allies on it," Huntsman said. "It doesn't have any folks that we have seen that worked on developing the Alternate Review Process for Stanford." (Alternate Review Process, or ARP, is a new disciplinary process set up to deal with allegations of misconduct relating to sexual assault, sexual harassment, relationship violence or stalking.)

"I've never cried in a meeting and I left in tears," Huntsman said. "I was so enraged. They were totally baffled when we brought up the point that if you are a university-appointed (committee) and survivors have already been victimized by the institution, they're not going to approach you with their stories again.

"They were totally baffled at the idea that people don't trust Stanford. We sat across the table from them and said point blank, 'We don't trust you to do this,' which is why we want to be on the commission. We don't want to keep organizing protests. I'd like to actually do something."

Huntsman said it was made clear at the July 17 meeting that Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, one of the original faculty members who drafted ARP in 2010 and who this spring helped Francis with her appeal, would not be involved in the task force's efforts.

"I had originally proposed the formation of the committee prior to (when) the Francis case became a public controversy but when I later asked asked to participate, I was told it was full," Dauber said. "I am disappointed because I feel my experience would be beneficial. I don't know why members were selected but I do know that other survivor advocates also asked to participate and were not selected."

Dauber said she hopes the committee will consider reforms such as the implementation of comprehensive, multi-day training in sexual assault, dating violence and relationship abuse for "every person at the university who is a decision maker;" and the creation of sanction guidelines that lay out the consequences for a range of assault offenses, rather than relying on previous case outcomes, of which there are few at Stanford.

Lisa Lapin, associate vice president of university communications, told the Weekly Tuesday that the university would not indicate whether or not any of the task force members are survivors of sexual assault.

"It just wouldn't be appropriate with a group this small," she said. "What I can tell you is that the task force is broadly representative and that we're very confident that we're going to be hearing from all perspectives."

She added that the task force will be doing "lots of outreach and gathering lots of feedback and input from the entire campus community."

The university is moving forward on a few concrete efforts to strengthen its addressing of sexual assault. A new online pre-orientation education program on sexual assault is being launched this summer for incoming students, the university said.

Stanford is also working with ASSU and others to develop new programs on sexual assault, affirmative consent and bystander intervention that will debut during New Student Orientation (NSO) this September and continue through the academic year. Students recently received an email soliciting applicants to speak as part of this new NSO program, called "Facing Reality: Cultivating a Community of Respect & Consent." The administration and ASSU are seeking two student speakers, one who is willing to publicly identify as a survivor of sexual assault or relationship violence and another who is "willing to publicly identify as an upstander who will motivate incoming students to take a stand and to speak up and intervene to help prevent sexual and relationship violence." The email says that interested students should not have been involved in a Title IX or ARP during the past academic year or be currently involved in "any such process."

The university also announced Tuesday that it will hire an additional Title IX investigator "to help ensure that Title IX investigations of reports of sexual violence can be completed within 60 calendar days." One of Francis' chief complaints was that her investigation took more than twice as long as the 60-day timeline recommended under federal law. Current coordinator Catherine Criswell, who is on the new task force, was hired this May.

Stanford said it will also explore how to increase the availability of on-campus, confidential resources for students who want to consult about possible assaults, a response to another criticism that Francis and other students have voiced.

The university also plans to launch a campus climate survey during the next academic year to solicit student opinion on the prevalence of sexual assault and misconduct, among other things, according to Tuesday's release.

"Like universities across the country, Stanford is re-examining its approach to the problem of sexual assault to ensure we have the best possible policies and practices," Provost John Etchemendy stated in the release. "This task force, with expertise and representation from across the Stanford community, will review what we do in sexual assault prevention, support and response and make recommendations for strengthening our activities in all of these areas. Input from the community and compliance with federal guidance will be central to its deliberations."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2014 at 10:06 am

Twenty is too large a group to get anything done other than rubber stamp reports. The size alone indicates it's just a political maneuver.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 29, 2014 at 1:59 pm


Interesting that they didn't allow Michelle Dauber be on the task force.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 29, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Too little, too late?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jul 30, 2014 at 1:51 am

Outsider perspective, freedom. Those are the rationals of independent investigations and Shadow governments (it seems to me that a task force is a different creature).

These were parts the reasons that had me call Mr. Dauber to form a Shadow PAUSD Board.
That thread reads very differently now after almost 1.5 years (and after some secret meetings became public knowledge, unusual (understatement) personnel changes etc.)

Link - Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jul 30, 2014 at 2:03 am

@Hmmm - isn't it the way "things' work? too little? too late?

Actually, 'too little, too late' is sadly the best case scenario in most cases.
At least the issue was recognized here, and is being is addressed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by howlong
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 30, 2014 at 9:03 am

how long before they limit this to members only? 10?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jul 30, 2014 at 1:14 pm

[Portion removed due to factually incorrect information.]

I think the Stanford task force is a good resolution, because they will address ALL similar cases ---and there are definitely campus sexual assaults. Stanford needs to make their campus as safe as possible.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hahaha
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 31, 2014 at 8:11 am

Too little too late.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Suggestion
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 31, 2014 at 10:18 am

Suggested plan for first lesson:

To Boys: No means No
To Girls: Don't get drunk

Just for starters.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stanford Alum
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 31, 2014 at 12:49 pm

I wonder if there are good reasons for Stanford not to put "outspoken survivors, activists, and faculty allies" on the committee to review sexual assault policies. Hmmm, let me see:

Could it be that the University is committed to reasoned discourse, rather than protests and political pressure?

Is it possible that these are judicial matters, and require some judicial temperament and that all points of view be considered and every person's rights be given reasonable protection?

It could even be that the outspoken survivors, activists, and faculty allies referred to above might have shown themselves to be extreme in their positions and unwilling to allow other points of view to be heard, or for practical, legal, and moral concerns to be considered?

The committee Stanford has chosen really does seem to be broadly-based and representative. I wish them well in their deliberations on this difficult topic.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 31, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

Stanford Alum,

Great comment. It IS a difficult topic, especially, as in the case cited in the article, when an incident takes place out of state. In my view that is a case for the police of that city, not Stanford. If a person is found guilty, only then should the school take the appropriate action. This task force should only be involved in cases taking place on campus.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stanford Alum
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 31, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Nora Charles, you bring up an interesting point. The incident is reported to have taken place in Alaska. The people involved are said to have been in a relationship previous to the incident. We don't know the details, although the conclusion from the Stanford inquiry judged that a sexual assault occurred. There is no report of any action by Alaskan authorities, but it's all rather vague.

It's true that Stanford's Fundamental Standard is supposed to apply to all students wherever they are. But what does that mean in practice? Surely jurisdictional issues should be considered, and seem to have been considered in this case. The former boyfriend did receive consequences for what he did. But the consequences weren't dire enough for the activists and faculty allies.

I'm not one to argue that judicial processes are always fair, and in the area of sexual assault in particular there are many appalling travesties of justice. But I'm not ready to support some draconian standard of expulsion for every case where allegations of assault are made.

I'm hoping this carefully chosen commission will come up with recommendations that most reasonable people will accept as well thought-out and fair to all concerned


 +   Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Aug 1, 2014 at 11:30 pm

village fool is a registered user.

@Moderator - May I suggest to consider linking this thread also to the 'Schools & Kids' Category? Currently it is 'beyond Palo alto'.

This issue seems to be high on the public agenda. A quick search produced many seemingly related links, here are two samples:

1. Thread titled: "Another OCR case opened as one is closed
Federal investigators investigate Gunn High's response to sexual-harassment complaint" Web Link

2. Thread titled: "Feds investigating Paly response to sexual harassment
Web Link

(and is Stanford really 'beyond' Palo Alto?)


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Aug 2, 2014 at 8:44 am

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

Professor Dauber isn't the only person with knowledge and experience excluded from the committee. What about Angela Exson the head of the SARA office? What about Jamie Hogan the ARP officer? This committe is comprised of people who know little or nothing with the exception of Schoenthaler who represents Stanford. It is almost as if the Provost selected members who have zero independent knowledge. The result of that is that they will be strongly inclined to defer to university counsel since she will be the only person in the room who knows anything. This is a blown opportunity. IWhile all the people are surely nice and well meaning they don't understand anything about the process or resources.

How then will they recommend improvements if they don't even know what they are improving or why? Much time and effort will be spent just trying to help them understand the situation.

Perhaps that is by design?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 2, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Retired Teacher is a registered user.

From JLS mom of 2: "This committe is comprised of people who know little or nothing with the exception of Schoenthaler who represents Stanford. It is almost as if the Provost selected members who have zero independent knowledge. The result of that is that they will be strongly inclined to defer to university counsel since she will be the only person in the room who knows anything."

My goodness, JLS mom of 2, this statement is truly incredible! These people, for example:

Shelley Correll, professor of sociology and the Barbara D. Finberg Director of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford

Marcia Stefanick, professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center and co-director of the Stanford Center for Health Research on Women & Sex Differences in Medicine

Robert Weisberg, the Edwin E. Huddleson, Jr. Professor of Law and faculty co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center

Laura Wilson, Stanford chief of police and director of the Department of Public Safety

Laraine Zappert, clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral science and director of the Sexual Harassment Policy Office at Stanford

These people know nothing? I should know nothing like these people, and the others on the committee, know nothing!

Even better, they do seem to represent a broad spectrum of opinion, without being members of political pressure groups that have a rather one-sided agenda.

Good for Stanford, choosing a terrific committee to deal with a fraught issue!



 +   Like this comment
Posted by George Orwell
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2014 at 12:40 am

George Orwell is a registered user.

Well Done! Restrict the thread, silence the discussion!


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