Etchemendy addresses winter break controversies in letter

Jan. 9, 2017, 11:28 p.m.

In an email to the Stanford community Sunday evening, Provost John Etchemendy addressed two timely controversies: the Band’s suspension for Title IX violations and sexual assault on campus.

In the email, Etchemendy emphasized the University’s commitment to fairness, educational equality and building an academic community “free of discrimination or harassment” — values also embodied in Title IX.

Etchemendy also acknowledged the tension between the Stanford community’s desire for administrative transparency and federal privacy laws that limit Stanford’s ability to distribute information on Title IX cases.

“The university itself is often legally constrained from discussing the full details of a given case, which we know can be frustrating for those trying to understand the facts and formulate their own views,” he wrote. “It is equally frustrating to us, since we believe that more transparency would help the community understand decisions that may seem puzzling with only partial information and rumors to go on.”

Despite these limits, Etchemendy offered information regarding the Band’s suspension, noting that violations committed after the original 2015 travel and alcohol ban led to the recent December 2016 suspension.

Additionally, Etchemendy noted, “The first is that the original policy violations were serious and the investigation was initiated following complaints from students who felt they had been severely impacted by the Band’s actions. It was not initiated by university administrators upset by the Band’s public behavior.” He further clarified that he had met with Band leadership prior to the end of autumn quarter and awaits the organization’s appeal of its suspension.

Etchemendy’s clarification on the investigation’s initiation possibly emerges from assertions from students and alumni that the University has chosen to suspend the Band to curb its irreverent character.

In response to Etchemendy’s Dec. 16 letter to the Stanford community regarding the Band’s suspension, also shared on the Stanford Alumni Facebook page, alumna Patty Pichon Hollenbeck ’81 commented on Facebook, “I don’t doubt the band may need to be nudged back into line — but Stanford’s sole focus is punitive. The university ‘doesn’t want to change the band?’ Of course it does. That’s the entire point. Enforcement of university policy should not be arbitrary and capricious — nor should the band be singled out. I’m not suggesting campus policies and alleged Title IX violations can or should be ignored. But this has been handled poorly.”

After addressing the Band controversy, Etchemendy turned to the increased attention on the issue of sexual assault at Stanford, particularly in light of the Dec. 29 New York Times article that criticized Stanford’s sexual assault adjudication process. In addition to redirecting readers to Stanford’s response to the Times article, Etchemendy noted the pilot Student Title IX Process, which requires a unanimous vote from a group of three trained panelists. This process is currently under review by a student and faculty committee, chaired by Stanford Law School professor Pamela Karlan.

In 2016, 16 Title IX complaints were adjudicated under this pilot program, and 13, according to Etchemendy, “resulted in outcomes favorable to the students who initiated the complaint.”

Etchemendy wrote, “Any account of these issues at Stanford is shaped by individual experiences and perspectives. I am personally anguished when I hear of students who were not satisfied by the support they received from the university, as are all the many staff who have devoted their lives to providing this support. As we work to continually strengthen our practices, we also seek to build understanding of what is truly a complex and difficult subject.”


Contact Courtney Douglas at ccd4 ‘at’

Courtney Douglas studies English, Political Science, and Ethics in Society at Stanford. A proud member of the Class of 2020, she served as Editor-in-Chief of The Daily's 254th volume. Her favorite poem is "To Be of Use" by Marge Piercy, she has a tattoo on her left ankle, and she wants to be a press lawyer. Her favorite journalists are Hannah Knowles and Alexa Philippou. Send her recommendations for leave-in conditioner and gravesites of relevant literary figures at ccdouglas 'at'

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