How Stanford’s draft Title IX procedures differ from peer institutions

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Stanford released its draft Title IX policy on Aug. 4, initiating a six-day comment period soliciting feedback from students, faculty and staff. These regulations were crafted in alignment with the policy changes mandated by the Department of Education on May 6.

Ahead of Aug. 14, when the final Title IX policy is set to go into effect, The Daily examined how Stanford’s draft policy proposals — which have been criticized by campus advocates for survivors of sexual assault — compare to those released by its peer institutions. 

A nuance of the Department of Education’s Title IX regulations narrows the definition of sexual harassment. Incidents within general categories that are covered by federal regulations (i.e. sexual assault and dating violence) but do not meet the specific federal guidelines for that category — such as those that may occur on international study abroad programs — are largely unprotected, while misconduct involving sexual exploitation, for example, is completely omitted from the federal investigative mandates.

In response, Lauren Schoenthaler, senior associate vice provost for institutional equity and access, said in Stanford’s Aug. 4 press release that the University remains “committed to ensuring an appropriate response to all allegations of sexual harassment and assault that occur within a Stanford program or activity, including acts that do not fall within Title IX’s scope.”

However, Stanford has yet to release a policy detailing a specific investigative procedure for this category of incidents.

Peer institutions like Princeton University have already published two distinct policies to ensure that “all conduct of a sexual nature that previously constituted a violation of University policy will continue to constitute a violation of University policy.”

Dartmouth College’s draft policy was similarly constructed so that the institution “will define conduct previously prohibited under Title IX but not addressed by the new federal definition to be a violation of its own policies, and will still investigate it through the Title IX office,” according to an article published by the Dartmouth student newspaper. This category of incidents includes those that may occur in places such as college-sponsored, international study abroad education programs, which aren’t covered by federal rules.

Additionally, despite the demand put forth by the ASSU advocacy committee for a 60-day Title IX investigation timeline, the regulations state that Stanford will aim to complete a hearing 120 days after the filing of a formal complaint, with the potential for it to last even longer depending on the complexity of the case. Princeton University’s policy, on the other hand, defines a goal for a 90-day process.

Stanford’s procedures also differ from many peer institutions in the definitions of sexual misconduct and their corresponding consent regulations. Stanford defines rape as occurring “without the consent of the Complainant.” However, for sodomy, sexual assault with an object and fondling, the University’s policy differs from the federal Clery Act wording and maintains that the instance must occur “forcibly and/or against that person’s will” (or not forcibly or against the person’s will if the complainant is incapable of giving consent due to age or incapacity). This description can be interpreted to mean that silence may be equivalent to consent for those cases.

Regulations from Princeton maintain a uniform consent description for all of the aforementioned acts, declaring that the misconduct constitutes an investigation if it occurs “without the consent of the victim.” This description does not include any requirements for proving that an incident occurred forcibly or against a victim’s will. Similarly, Dartmouth’s draft policy explicitly states that “silence, passivity or the absence of resistance does not imply consent” for all cases.

Stanford also diverges from peer institutions in the requirements put in place for mandated reporters. This area is one in which the federal regulations allow for flexibility, as DeVos’ regulations dictate that sexual harassment cases are only required to be thoroughly investigated by college and university administration if the incident is reported to a Title IX coordinator or an undefined individual who has “authority to institute corrective measures,” according to the rule’s wording

Stanford’s policy indicates that it considers the president, provost, deans of school, athletics directors, vice presidents and vice provosts individuals with “authority to institute corrective measures.”

At institutions such as Dartmouth, the draft mandated reporter category is much broader, encompassing “all teaching faculty; teaching assistants; undergraduate advisors; coaches;…and/or Student employees with significant responsibility for the welfare of other Students, Faculty or Staff” with whom students are more likely to have personal relationships.

While the University of California system has yet to release draft regulations, President Janet Napolitano publicly expressed her condemnation towards many of the new federal guidelines in a May 6 statement.

“We can do better than this,” she said. “UC opposes these ill-conceived changes and, in spite of them, will continue our hard-won momentum through education, prevention and processes that are fair and compassionate to all parties.”

A previous version of this article misspelled Lauren Schoenthaler’s name. The Daily regrets this error.

Contact Lexi Kupor at alkupor ‘at’ gmail.com.

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Lexi Kupor is a high schooler writer participating in The Daily’s Summer Journalism Workshop.