Stanford University received 92 fewer reports of sexual misconduct in 2019-20 than the prior school year, though the drop is attributed to the fact that the campus was closed for nearly half of the reporting period due to the pandemic.
The university released on Monday its annual Title IX report, which details data on sexual violence, sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Before the campus closed in March, Stanford was headed toward previous levels of reports, "indicating that we have much work to do to eradicate sexual harassment/assault from campus," the report states. The report also acknowledges that the data are incomplete because many instances of sexual violence and harassment as well as gender discrimination are not reported to the university.
The document includes reports of prohibited sexual conduct involving students, faculty and staff from Sept. 1, 2019, to Aug. 13, 2020. The largest number of reports were of workplace sexual harassment (45); followed by "uncategorizable," or unverified reports that lack sufficient detail to categorize, including concerns of "sexual assault," "Title IX incident" and incapacitated individuals possibly engaging in sexual activity (36); student sexual harassment (19); and nonconsensual touching (19). The people who reported workplace sexual harassment were largely female staff, graduate and undergraduate students and the accused, male staff, faculty, and graduate students.
Of 20 formal investigations into workplace sexual harassment in 2019-20, there were eight findings of a policy violation that resulted in one male faculty member and five male staff members being permanently separated from the university. (Separation can include expulsion, termination, resignation or retirement in lieu of termination, or nonrenewal of an appointment.)
Fifteen workplace sexual harassment cases, meanwhile, were addressed with "university interventions," or actions taken to address an allegation of an act that occurred but that didn't rise to the level of a formal policy violation or when a victim didn't want the university to conduct a full investigation.
There were two formal investigations into student sexual harassment reports which resulted in a single "non-hearing resolution," or when the university proposes an outcome that's accepted by both parties and becomes a university "directive" instead of moving forward to a formal hearing. This required one male graduate student to stop contact with the other student, lose privileges and undergo sexual citizenship counseling and alcohol counseling, according to the report.
There were 19 reports of nonconsensual intercourse in 2019-20, three of which Stanford formally investigated. One of those cases resulted in a policy violation for a male staff member who was separated from the university. There were also three university interventions.
One male undergraduate student who attempted "videotaping of showering without permission" was separated from Stanford through a non-hearing resolution, according to the report.
Other consequences for students found guilty of nonconsensual touching, stalking and relationship violence included quarters away from Stanford, counseling and "loss of privileges."
"While we've made structural and policy changes this year, we know that we have much more work to do to create a campus culture free of prohibited sexual behavior. These annual reports show us that sexual violence, sexual harassment and gender discrimination are prevalent on our campus," said Provost Persis Drell, whose office oversees the Office of Institutional Equity and Access. "We all must work together to address this critical issue."
Though the 2019-20 data was reported before President Donald Trump administration's new Title IX regulations took effect in August, the controversial changes in federal requirements for colleges and universities hang over Stanford's response to sexual violence and harassment. Stanford students have expressed concern about the new Title IX procedures, including a more limited scope of jurisdiction — if someone accused of sexual misconduct leaves the university community and the incident is reported after he or she left, the Title IX procedures no longer apply, for example — and whether the Title IX policies apply while most students are off campus this year. The new federal regulations do not require colleges and universities to apply Title IX procedures to off-campus activities and programs, such as study abroad programs, but Stanford has expanded its scope for student misconduct to include "all sexual harassment-related conduct where there is any reason to believe that the incident could contribute to a hostile educational environment or otherwise interfere with a student's access to education," Lauren Schoenthaler, senior associate vice provost for institutional equity and access, said in an announcement.
Students Julia Paris, Maia Brockbank and Krithika Iyer, the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) co-directors of sexual violence prevention, said in a statement that the new policies are difficult to understand and navigate. There are now three new procedures by which Stanford reviews sexual harassment and violence allegations: a procedure for all respondents, or those accused of misconduct, when the conduct is subject to Title IX jurisdiction; a hearing procedure for faculty and student respondents; and an investigation procedure for staff and postdoctoral scholar respondents when a student is making an allegation.
"When deciding whether or not to file a complaint, survivors may face extreme difficulty in even determining which of the three procedures applies to their case," the students said. "The applicability of the policies is determined by everything from the location, nature and timing of the incident, as well as the specific job category of the perpetrator. These distinctions are not intuitive; the same assault would fall under different procedures if it was committed by a full professor, compared to a lecturer. How are survivors supposed to understand these convoluted distinctions without support?" (Stanford's announcement notes that attorneys are made available to students during the investigation process.)
Based on feedback from an external review of the three offices involved in preventing and responding to sexual harassment and assault — the Title IX Office, Sexual Harassment Policy Office (SHPO) and Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse Education and Response Office (SARA) — Stanford merged them into one, now called the SHARE Title IX Office. The consolidated office will oversee the three Title IX procedures and the updated policy defining and prohibiting sexual harassment, sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking.
The external reviewers — representatives from Princeton, Brown, Duke and Yale universities — wrote in a final report that they "heard deep concern regarding the need for cultural change" at Stanford as well as a perception that the university "seeks to minimize issues of sexual misconduct in order to perpetuate a positive image of Stanford."
"While it is the impression of the reviewers that the university is deeply committed to handling these matters in a manner that is transparent, equitable, and sensitive to all involved, it is apparent that there are members of the community who do not share this perspective. It is therefore critical that the university take strong and visible action to publicly demonstrate its commitment to these issues, as well as its willingness to make appropriate changes in order to improve the experience of students, faculty, and staff," they wrote.