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."