Survivor advocates presented suggested edits to the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Education Procedure to Provost Persis Drell and other University administrators at a Tuesday meeting. The edits targeted the discrepancies between different University procedures on sexual violence that advocates said are damaging to survivors.
The SHARE Investigation Procedure applies when an alleged perpetrator is a staff member, including lecturers and post-doctoral scholars who are not formal members of the professoriate. According to the advocates’ presentation, the SHARE Investigation Procedure differs dramatically from the SHARE Hearing Procedure, which applies when an alleged perpetrator is a student or a formal member of the professoriate, and the Title IX Procedure and they asked that parity be achieved between the three policies to protect the rights of survivors.
A 2018 Report to the Provost regarding Stanford’s academic teaching staff found that members of the professoriate are responsible for about half of the teaching at Stanford, with the remainder conducted by lecturers and other scholars. Students who are abused by lecturers and other teachers who are not part of the professoriate would have their cases investigated under the SHARE Investigation Procedure – not the SHARE Hearing Procedure.
In response to the presentation, Drell said she would ask the advisory council to deliberate and advise both her and Schoenthaler on if and how changes should be made to the procedures.
“I think you’ve laid it out very, very clearly and you’ve proposed concrete solutions, so I appreciate that,” she said.
Vice Provost Lauren Schoenthaler, who also attended the meeting and oversees the SHARE Title IX office, added that the administration would take efforts in the future to ensure greater transparency in the process. Going forward, she pledged, the University will log all of the changes that are made so that everyone can track the iterations.
Stanford developed the SHARE Procedures as a response to regulations made in 2018 by former secretary of education Besty DeVos. Those regulations limited the reach of Stanford’s past Title IX procedures. The procedures have been criticized in the past for what advocates contend are a limited scope and vague language.
Advocates in attendance included law professor Michele Dauber, Emma Tsurkov J.S.M. ’15, Maia Brockbank ’21, Julia Paris ’21, Krithika Iyer ’21, Betsy Kim ’22 and Marco Scalera ’23. Brockbank, Paris and Iyer are the co-founders of SVFree Stanford, which works to prevent sexual violence on campus.
Advocates raised concerns that while the SHARE Hearing Procedure and Title IX Procedure both offer survivors rape shield protection, which prevents past sexual history from being used against a survivor in an investigation, the SHARE Investigation Procedure does not. According to Dauber, such language is “antiquated and is sure to chill reporting by students.”
They suggested replacing the language in the SHARE Investigation Procedure with that found in the other University policies, ensuring uniformity and preventing a chilling effect on reports of sexual violence.
Such language is not present in other University policies. The Title IX Procedure specifies that a survivor’s sexual history will not be taken into account unless it is used to “prove that someone other than the Respondent committed the conduct alleged by the Complainant” or establish affirmative consent. Similar language is encoded within the SHARE Hearing Procedure.
In contrast, the SHARE Investigation Procedure states that the sexual history of a survivor is relevant when it “provides compelling evidence on a disputed issue, including credibility.” The sexual history of a survivor could also be taken into consideration to rebut provided evidence or assertions of a “lack of sexual experience.”
Advocates also contended that the change to the language in the SHARE Investigation Procedure occurred without their knowledge.
“We have long known that including any interrogation of a complainant’s sexual history is directly retraumatizing and feeds into rape culture, and there’s no good excuse for why this addition was made, and secretly so,” Brockbank said.
Another concern of advocates was the lack of a neutral non-Stanford decision-maker in the SHARE Investigation Procedure. According to the text of the procedure, the decision-maker is the deputy Title IX coordinator or another staff member, and the appeal officer is the vice president for human resources or another designated staff member.
Advocates suggested allowing for independent decision-makers and appeal officers in the Investigation Procedure to achieve parity with other policies. They also advocated for assigning these decision makers the responsibility of protecting the rights of survivors in regards to the rape shield, which would make this provision of the Investigation Procedure the same as that of Stanford’s other procedures.
“A commitment to independence is one of the most significant things Stanford can do to restore student trust in these processes,” said Brockbank.
Finally, advocates raised the issue of legal aid, which has been one of their main priorities for many months. Eight total hours of legal aid — six for investigations and two for appeals — are provided without cost under the SHARE Hearing and Title IX procedures, but only four hours of legal aid, without time for appeals, are provided under the SHARE Investigation Procedure.
Advocates called upon Stanford to increase the amount of legal aid under the Investigation Procedure to eight hours, as well as increasing the time to file an appeal from five days to ten days.
Iyer said that there should be no reason for discrepancies between the different procedures: “If you experienced violence at the hands of a lecturer instead of a professor, the impact of the assault does not change on you, but Stanford is sending the signal that you are less worthy of legal hours, of an independent decision maker and of rape shield protections,” she said.
It is unclear when the changes advocates suggested will be deliberated by University administrators or implemented, although administrators appeared to be sympathetic to advocates’ concerns of discrepancies between the University’s sexual violence procedures and pledged to return with an update within a month.
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This article has been updated to provide further context on the SHARE procedures and their specificities, including the differences between the Investigation Procedure and the Hearing Procedure.