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Faculty, staff denounce Stanford’s sexual misconduct services, policies

‘Progress is too slow and the fallout is tremendous,’ lecturer says

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Faculty and staff said Stanford’s sexual assault and harassment services are inadequate, forcing faculty members to leave the University and face personal costs for speaking out. The comments came at an open forum on Tuesday, part of the University’s external review of its sexual harassment and violence policies.

“Progress is too slow and the fallout is tremendous,” said Graduate School of Business lecturer Susan Colby ’87.

The four members of the external committee, composed of members of administrative and Title IX offices at other universities, occasionally prompted those speaking for more details. Nearly 60 people were on the call in total.

Faculty and staff said the University is slow to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct and gendered harassment, with those speaking out being less likely to receive tenure or promotion. 

Pamela Kunz, associate professor of medicine, said she would be leaving Stanford in three weeks due to microaggressions she had experienced that had caused “significant barriers” to her success. Individuals quoted in this article agreed to have their comments reproduced in The Daily under conditions they specified.

“It felt to me that little happened in response to my complaints,” Kunz said. “I experienced a lot of negative feedback that undermined my leadership and comments from mentors and colleagues that affected my ability to succeed in leadership roles here. It became impossible to overcome.”

University spokesperson E.J. Miranda wrote in a statement to The Daily that the University “welcome[s] input of the community on how we can enhance and expand our services and support.”

“The external review will lead to recommendations for improving the experiences of community members affected by sexual violence or harassment,” Miranda wrote.

Twenty-one percent of female faculty at Stanford, compared to 2% of male faculty, reported having experienced offensive, objectifying or discriminatory behavior due to their gender at the University in the last 12 months, according to a survey administered in January 2019. And 35% of female faculty, compared to 1% of male faculty, reported that they had been mistreated, slighted, insulted, ignored or condescended to because of their gender.

A School of Medicine professor spoke to a culture of people who spoke out being “blacklisted” in their departments or being labeled as “troublemakers.”

“If you make a complaint, you can be assured you will not get a leadership position, no matter how credible your concerns are,” she said, adding that she felt comfortable speaking out only as she was “almost at the end of my career.”

Stanford Law professor Michele Dauber wrote in a statement to The Daily that, despite being fully tenured, she had also faced “significant personal costs” for her Title IX advocacy on campus.

“I can only imagine how bad it is for those who lack the protection of tenure,” Dauber wrote. “It seems possible to me that I have faced more costs associated with my advocacy than most of the faculty who have actually committed sexual harassment on this campus.”

Miranda declined to comment on criticism that Stanford faculty’s careers or reputation could be jeopardized by speaking out about sexual harassment and violence. 

Faculty and staff also said they believed Stanford had a tendency to overlook incidents of sexual harassment and violence when the University was not at risk of a lawsuit. 

“Stanford, as an institution, needs to find a way to show humanity and compassion when someone at the school is harmed sexually, despite the concerns of legal exposure,” wrote one participant in a statement to The Daily. 

Another participant said small acts of reduced recognition and disparagement were especially pernicious.

“This is the kind of stuff that makes people leave but not get a lawsuit,” she said.

Miranda declined to comment on criticism that the University overlooked cases.

Dauber added that difficulties navigating the investigations and disciplinary policies for sexual harassment and violence were magnified for students pursuing cases against faculty.

“There is no reasonable way for a student to navigate this incredibly complex process, which involves procedures that frankly are legally problematic given the unequal rights of the parties, without counsel,” Dauber wrote, citing University policy that provides legal counsel to students only when pursuing cases against other students.

Miranda declined to comment on these policies.

Colby said the University needed a clearer shared vision, explicit values and policies and systems of implementation to address and prevent sexual harassment and violence. 

“People are very susceptible to metrics,” Colby said. “If you are tracking these things, and you say it’s important and you do what’s important, the numbers will change.”

Contact Kate Selig at kselig ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Kate Selig '23 is a news desk editor. Questions, comments, concerns? Send her an email at kselig 'at' stanford.edu.