We need your help in fighting sexual assault

Oct. 14, 2016, 12:55 a.m.

In recent years, Stanford and its peers across the nation have pursued new approaches to the persistent problem of sexual violence on college campuses. To say that this is a pressing concern would be an understatement.

We are writing on behalf of the Sexual Assault Advisory Committee, a group of faculty, students and staff that meets regularly to review campus processes related to sexual misconduct and solicit ongoing feedback from the Stanford community. One of us, Claudia, is a junior studying mathematical and computational science. The other, Aku, is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of English. We want to reach out to the campus — and especially to undergraduate and graduate students — and solicit questions, concerns and suggestions about combating sexual misconduct in our community.

Some background on our work: You may know that Provost Etchemendy convened a Task Force on Sexual Assault, which included Aku, during the 2014-15 academic year. The Task Force issued a set of recommendations for improving education, support and adjudication around sexual violence and sexual misconduct. All of the recommendations were accepted by the Provost, and implementation began during the following academic year.

The most publicized change has been the implementation of the pilot Stanford Student Title IX Investigation and Hearing Process, which began on Feb. 1. The pilot replaces the previous system for reporting and adjudicating sexual misconduct, the Alternative Review Process. It’s a three-year pilot that can be permanently adopted with approval from the Board on Judicial Affairs, ASSU Undergraduate Senate, Graduate Student Council, Faculty Senate and president in August 2018.

Another equally important change is the creation of our Advisory Committee, which is chaired by Professor Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law School. Our charge is as follows:

“The Advisory Committee will monitor the University’s education and support programs, focusing on process, quality and, where feasible and appropriate, outcome measures. The Advisory Committee will also consider relevant information and evolving best practices nationally to offer recommendations regarding the continued development of educational programs, confidential services and policies and procedures to advance a respectful, supportive and safe university campus. The Advisory Committee will seek to determine whether these programs are functioning well at Stanford and, if warranted, will offer recommendations to improve educational activities and support services.”

This means that our group will review the pilot processes that currently exist and address sexual misconduct at a systemic level. We want to encourage continued education and prevention measures for students, faculty and staff.

Stanford can and should set a national standard for addressing sexual misconduct. In order to do this, we need your help and feedback.

For the next two years, our group will communicate with you in several ways. The central place for information is notalone.stanford.edu. You can always go here to see what we are doing, and to find support and reporting options. Starting today, there is also a feedback portal on the site. Community members can use this to send comments directly to our committee. We hope you’ll use it immediately, and often, to let us know about your experiences with campus processes and to share suggestions for how the University can improve.

We’ll also offer a range of ways to communicate in person. Advisory Committee members will host regular office hours for individual students and small groups who wish to ask questions, share experiences and provide feedback (Dates and times will be advertised through the Not Alone website.) We may also hold town hall meetings and invite relevant campus constituencies to speak to our group. We’ll hold these events based on what we hear from the campus — so please contact us with your insights.

We especially want to work with graduate students and undergraduates who research sexual assault education and prevention or who have other relevant experience in these areas. We are forming a graduate student research group that will work with the Advisory Committee, and we also invite you to submit information about education efforts from students at all levels.

Addressing sexual misconduct can seem like a highly technical, bureaucratic process. But we want to add a necessary human element to this fight. As President Tessier-Lavigne put it in his September welcome letter, “We must continue to ask ourselves how we can each make a difference in advancing justice, peace and understanding around the world and on our campus.” We hope you’ll join us in this urgent work.

-Aku Ammah-Tagoe, graduate student in English, and Claudia McKenzie ’18


Contact Aku Ammah-Tagoe at akuat ‘at’ stanford.edu and Claudia McKenzie at claudi10 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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