Stanford rules against expulsion in sexual-assault case | News | Palo Alto Online |


Stanford rules against expulsion in sexual-assault case

University rejects student's appeal of sanctions

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Stanford University Wednesday afternoon ruled it will not expel a student found responsible for sexual assault, deciding to instead withhold his diploma for two years.

The student, a graduating senior, will be allowed to return in fall 2016 to attend graduate school at Stanford.

The decision, handed down by Vice Provost of Student Affairs Greg Boardman, rejects an appeal filed by senior Leah Francis, who sought tougher sanctions for the student found responsible for assaulting her off campus over winter break. At a rally last week attended by more than 300 students, she urged the administration to reconsider the sanctions it previously issued – a five-quarter suspension starting this summer, community service hours and a sexual assault education program – and to expel the student, as well as reform the university's policy to make expulsion the default sanction in sexual assault cases.

Boardman's ruling does not question the finding of responsibility handed down in April through the university's Alternate Review Process, a new disciplinary process set up to deal with allegations of misconduct relating to sexual assault, sexual harassment, relationship violence or stalking. The five-member panel in April had voted 4-1 for a finding of sexual assault, 5-0 for sexual misconduct and 5-0 for violating the university's Fundamental Standard, a policy that governs student behavior both within and outside of Stanford, according to Francis' appeal.

But factoring into Boardman's ruling against expulsion was the review panel's determination that the student, who has not been named, poses no danger to the Stanford community. The panel's finding was made in part due to the fact that Francis and the student had a previous dating relationship that had ended more than two years before the Jan. 1 assault, according to Wednesday's ruling.

Boardman opted to delay the conferral of the male student's bachelor's degree for two years to compensate for the harm the student caused Francis. But Boardman also rescinded the five-quarter suspension and the community-service hours.

"I hoped that the university would do the right thing," Francis said Wednesday. "It was so clearly laid out for them. Now I just feel like they don't care about me at all, not at all."

Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who has been assisting Francis with the appeal process, described the ruling as "victim blaming" and said she does not agree with the outcome.

"He was found responsible for sexual assault through force ... an event that was very traumatic to the victim, through force, and yet, there is paradoxically a conclusion that he is not a threat to the Stanford community. That, to me, is an affront to every woman at Stanford and every victim of sexual assault at Stanford," Dauber said.

She also said that with the university's rescission of the original suspension, the student will not have to report the sanction on future job applications. When he returns to Stanford for graduate school, there will be no Title IX limitations in place that could restrict his housing or campus activities, Dauber said.

"His sole sanction is a two-year delay in his degree conferral," Dauber said. "It appears that this is also due to the university's erroneous conclusion that he is not a danger to anyone other than her. The inescapable inference of that is that the university blames her in substantial measure for the assault."

University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin said Thursday that while she cannot comment on the case or ruling, imposing expulsion as a default sanction "is going to be discussed as an option."

"I think there needs to be conversation with the students about what the ramifications of that would be," she said.

In a June 6 letter from vice provost Boardman addressed to students, he also said the university intends to discuss the option of presumptive expulsion, "not meaning that it would be applied to every case automatically, but that it would be the starting point for the consideration of sanctions."

Expelling a student for sexual violence was proposed -- and supported by the administration -- when the university first drafted the Alternate Review Process, which was piloted starting in 2010 and officially approved in 2013. Students at the time strongly opposed the idea. (Read: Expelling students for sexual violence has been proposed before)

Francis went public with her story last week, alleging the investigation for her case has taken more than twice as long as the 60 days recommended under federal law and that the consequences imposed on her assailant fell short of his crime.

Stanford is required under Title IX to investigate and respond to any reports of sexual assault, regardless of whether or not there is a criminal proceeding.

"The goal of Stanford's investigation is not to determine whether a crime has been committed, but whether University policy has been violated and, if so, what discipline is appropriate," a "frequently asked questions" page on the provost's office website. A university investigation can also proceed if a criminal case ends, and the Title IX requirement to investigate applies regardless of whether an assault takes place on or off campus, "as students may experience the continuing effects of an off-campus incident while pursuing their studies back on campus."

Francis also filed a police report in January in the city where the assault took place. The case was investigated and passed to the local district attorney's office for further investigation, Dauber said.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 11, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Why isn't the Office of Civil Rights involved in this case?

1 person likes this
Posted by He-Said/She-Said
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2014 at 8:32 pm

It’s a real shame that the Weekly has carried this story sequence, since it has only provided one side of the story. There are many facts that doubtless leave people with a different view of this matter if they were told.

The details of the events that led up to this problem have never been laid on the table. Vague clues like “off campus” turn out to be--in another state, in the young man’s home, during a school break.

Other details, such as the two had previously been involved, but had not been together for as much as two years, add more questions, as to how she came to be in this fellow’s house? [Portion removed due to speculation about facts unknown to the poster and potentially defamatory.]

One of the key issues here is the Fed’s requirement that guilt be established via a “preponderance of the evidence”—yet, there doesn’t seem to be any due process system, such as in the criminal courts system, that would allow the accused to cross-examine all witnesses against him, or to not self-incriminate himself.

[Portion removed.]

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Posted by Emma Isabella
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Typical Rape Culture-Slut Shaming going on by He-Said/She-Said. Stop blaming the victim and making excuses for a rapist.

1 person likes this
Posted by Slippery slope
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 11, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Who's blaming the victim? They are removing the student from Stanford for as long as the victim is at Stanford.

The victim doesn't have the right to determine the punishishment. That is no longer justice, it is revenge.

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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 12, 2014 at 6:52 am

Why exactly is the attacker not in prison? To me, the ruling to not expel the attacker and even allow him to eventually return to Stanforf is a disturbing glimpse into Stanford's slide into the Libertarian mind-set:Only the strong survive.

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Posted by howlong
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 12, 2014 at 7:49 am

how long before this thread's shut down to all but registered users?
vote here.
12 posts, like?

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Posted by resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 12, 2014 at 8:24 am

"Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who has been assisting Francis with the appeal process, described the ruling as "victim blaming" and said she does not agree with the outcome."

I still don't understand why the school needs to do justice, instead of the jurisdiction where the rape happened. The school is being asked though, and I can see how expulsions should be made case by case. In this case they seem to have based their decision based on whether the assailant is a threat to others.

While the nature of the relationship of the two students speaks to whether the student is a threat to others, it could appear to blame the victim if Stanford is saying that rape is only serious when committed by a stranger.

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2014 at 9:42 am

[Post removed.]

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Posted by WHAT??
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 12, 2014 at 10:33 am

WHAT?? is a registered user.

rape is rape..irregardless of where they were, when she says NO it means no. Blaming her is like saying a rapist has the right to rape her because she asked for it by simply being there or dressing provocatively. [Portion removed.]

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Posted by muttiallen
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 12, 2014 at 10:37 am

muttiallen is a registered user.

Since the crime occurred off campus in another state, I think Stanford should wait for civil authorities to find guilt before handing down punishment in a he-said/she-said situation. Otherwise why do we have the name of the victim but not the alleged attacker? Usually it's the other way around.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 12, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Mutti - the victim went public, so it was her choice to reveal her name. Do you know anything about the process that found him responsible - not guilty, but responsible - for the incident? I don't. Maybe our lack of info about the process is preventing us from understanding why they made a determination without "civil authorities" involved. They may have had enough info. Maybe their system is flawed. We don't know.

It would be helpful, I think, for folks to have access to info on the process used. Or maybe not. Maybe Stanford doesn't feel that it's necessary for outsiders to have that info. I think it would help people understand better, if they knew how the determination was made.

Since nothing has been said about a police report, it could be that Francis decided not to involve the police, but only Stanford University. But again - no info is given.

If her allegations are true, I admire her going public, and I hope it helps her stay safe. But the specific focus on the issues still leave a lot of questions. I think that the range of questions people have reflect our culture's range of attitudes toward non-stranger sexual assault. For example, people are surprised that Francis was close enough to an ex to stay somewhere with him. That's not unusual, nor is it a reason to be suspicious of her. Ultimately, this situation, in my experience of these incidents and accusations, is somewhat typical in that the public isn't receiving a lot of information, yet we still think that we should have an opinion about the incident. What I do also know is that a victim who goes public opens themselves up to so much that is not easy to handle. There are still consequences to come for her going public.

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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 12, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

I still wonder: was the alleged attacker arrested and charged with sexual assault by police in his hometown? If not, how can Stanford come to any other conclusion than not to expel him?

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Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 12, 2014 at 6:11 pm

Retired Teacher is a registered user.

I agree with the posts on this thread that suggest we don't have enough information to make an informed judgement on these issues. Stanford clearly has investigated the allegations, reached conclusions as to guilt, and imposed a sanction on the male student. We do not, cannot, and probably should not learn about all the details of this case. Therefore, we are not qualified to judge the result.

Nevertheless, we can make some judgments on the issues raised by Leah Francis and Michele Dauber, her supporter. First, what occurred in Alaska should not have happened, at least if we can rely on the judgments made in Stanford's Alternative Review Process. If an Alaska police report was filed in January, one has to ask why no action has been taken in Alaska. But given the differences in state attitudes to these issues, it makes no sense to draw conclusions one way or the other, given the fact that we don't know what's going on in that state.

There is an issue that we can weigh in on without infringing on the privacy of both individuals involved in this case, and without asking Stanford to reveal the facts before its judicial body and its judgments on this case. That is the issue of a fair and just adjudication of cases involving allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, relationship violence, or stalking.

First, in the United States, there is a presumption of innocence. That means that accusations to not necessarily mean guilt. It also means that charges filed by a district attorney or other legal entity do not necessarily mean guilt. That especially means that accusations in the media, statements by parties or supporters in the case, or statements made by organizations or interest groups, should have no bearing on the judicial process.

Second, there are penalties for all these acts are established by law. In the case of Stanford, penalties are set by the University. Stanford has set a range of penalties. If Leah Francis and Michelle Dauber advocate that the penalties be shifted so that there is a default penalty of expulsion, that is their privilege. But that is only their opinion. That opinion should be weighed against all sorts of options about how to deal with these issues of sexual misconduct. There is another standard to consider--the standard of how to judge what is reasonable when weighing the interests of men, women, the university, and the society in general.

As a Stanford grad, with experience of Stanford's judicial system, albeit years ago, and experience of other universities and their systems, I can harbor some reservations about influences on university judgments. Nevertheless, it is far better to have a full public debate on the process, including all parties involved, rather than have rallies, media pressure, and inflammatory statements from various quarters unduly influence the final outcome.

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Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 12, 2014 at 7:54 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

This whole story does not belong in the news. Stanford has its students sign up for a private, internal "legal" system, and all facts remain internal to that system. If no facts can get out of that system, this woman has no business capitalizing on the privacy to suit only herself. She can claim anything she wants, and the male in this case can only remain silent or go public and defend himself sexual assault charges - OK guys, which would you choose? Either way, he is made a villain whether he deserves it or not.

For all we know, Stanford may be just suspending the male student because it is the path of least resistance to close this incident out and ensure the male and female can't possibly encounter each other on campus. Becasue the male student also agreed to Stanford's private system, he can't do anything but go along with it.

[Post removed due to citing incorrect information.]

Having this non-story published serves no purpose other than to create a lot of speculation (some of which the Weekly censors if they don't like it) and to damage a man who is perhaps not even facing criminal charges.

[Portion removed.]

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Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 12, 2014 at 9:06 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

I love the censoring. There was nothing "incorrect" in my post - unless we have actually been informed about the woman reporting the incident to local authorities. If we were informed, please provide the link because I must have missed it.

The second deletion is a remark on my personal feeling, so no clue why it was censored.

The censoring is so completely subjective - this is not a news organization.

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Posted by Town Square Moderator
online staff of Palo Alto Online
on Jun 12, 2014 at 11:02 pm

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.

True Blue,

Your comment was edited because you falsely stated no report was made to police about the incident. As the story reports, a police report was made.

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Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 13, 2014 at 1:18 am

True Blue is a registered user.

Town Square Moderator:

Thank you for clarifying why that part of my post was deleted. However, the article does not state as a matter of record that a police report was filed. It says, "Francis also filed a police report in January in the city where the assault took place. The case was investigated and passed to the local district attorney's office for further investigation, Dauber said."

This article dthe oesn't even QUOTE Dauber's statement, let alone VALIDATE Dauber's hearsay statement as being factual.

My statement stands: if a police report was filed, this article fails to reference the actual report, as opposed to someone saying a report was made (with no proof).

Based on the comment in the article. that someone said a report was made (if true), it appears the authorities did not find enough evidence to arrest him. Or is that another comment that Michelle Dauber made that has not been published or verified yet?

The story does NOT report a police report was made, it says someone says a report was filed, and that someone is not even properly credited with the statement.

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Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2014 at 5:42 am

Sparty is a registered user.

Doesn't matter whether or not a police report was filed, or if there was a prosecution or a trial.

Stanford students are bound by their rules which state they can dole out punishment regardless of what the government does.

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Posted by rick
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 13, 2014 at 7:20 am

rick is a registered user.

With minimal effort anyone really interested could find additional sources. A start would be the students' hometown newspaper -- Web Link -- (not sure how long this link will be valid). Further details (TMI) are available in the Slate article by Emily Bazelon. (Who would have thought Square Dancing would be involved?) A little more creative search direction would probably violate terms of use here. Alaska doesn't send very many students to Stanford. Commenters in the previous thread saw the big picture through the Snapchat CEO's Stanford fraternity attitude. It's all very depressing -- someone should write a screenplay.

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