Stanford taps athletics official, civil rights attorney for key equity and sexual violence response posts

April 7, 2021, 11:29 p.m.

Stanford announced on Wednesday that it is appointing two men to key roles overseeing the response to sexual harassment and violence — a decision that drew mixed responses from survivor advocates.

Deputy Athletics Director Patrick Dunkley will serve as vice provost for institutional equity, access and community, and civil rights attorney Stephen Chen will serve as Title IX coordinator and director of the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Education (SHARE) Office.

Dunkley, who is currently a deputy athletics director and a senior university counsel, will oversee the University’s racial justice initiatives and the Office of Institutional Equity and Access, which houses the SHARE Office. Dunkley will replace Lauren Schoenthaler, who served in the role for the past five years. 

Chen comes to Stanford from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, where he currently serves as a supervisory attorney and program manager for the agency’s regional office in Denver, Colorado. He will take on the Title IX coordinator role in mid-May.

Chen will be Stanford’s first Title IX coordinator to serve in a permanent capacity in more than a year. In January, the University was criticized by survivor advocates who maintained that the lack of a permanent Title IX coordinator sends a message of low prioritization and instability to sexual violence survivors, potentially making them less inclined to report an assault.

As part of a national selection process, Chen met with more than 80 students and faculty members and received “enthusiastic support from all sectors,” according to the University. Chen will report to Dunkley, as well as Provost Persis Drell and Vice Provost for Human Resources Elizabeth Zacharias, according to University spokesperson E.J. Miranda.

Survivor advocates from student government expressed cautious optimism about the changes and said they were hopeful that the new faces will help rebuild the “fractured trust” between students and these offices.

“We’ve long been asking that the administration and Title IX office make serious changes to its leadership and hire a new permanent Coordinator and we are pleased that they have done so and hope that it symbolizes reform and continuous progress,” wrote Maia Brockbank ’21, Julia Paris ’21, and Krithika Iyer ’21 in a statement. The three are co-chairs on the ASSU Committee on Sexual Violence Prevention and Survivor Support and cofounders of SVFree Stanford, which combats sexual violence on campus and supports survivors.

They also said that they hoped to be involved in similar decisions in the future, writing, “We are proud that student activists were involved in the hiring process for the new coordinator and hope to continue to have our voices invited in these important conversations.”

Not all community members were as optimistic. Dunkley’s appointment was criticized by law professor and longtime survivor advocate Michele Dauber, who tweeted Wednesday morning, “Nothing says ‘you can trust [Stanford] to report your rape’ like appointing a man with no apparent expertise in Title IX and who has been an assistant athletic director for a decade to oversee all sexual harassment and assault prevention and response.”

Dauber added in a follow-up tweet that she could  “no longer in good faith recommend survivors to use the [Stanford] reporting and adjudicating processes.”

In a statement to The Daily, Dauber wrote that Dunkley “was a key leader in the Athletics Department during multiple sexual assault scandals involving athletes, including Brock Turner and one involving the football team that was reported in the New York Times.” Dauber also called Dunkley’s experience in handling sexual violence response “unclear.”  

When asked about Dauber’s statements, Dunkley declined to comment but defended his record, underscoring that he is committed to working to build trust and transparency with the community and foster equity. He added that “contributing to and supporting systems and processes that are fair and equitable is something critically important to me both personally and professionally.”

Despite these criticisms, Dauber wrote in a statement to The Daily that she hoped Dunkley would be successful in his role, which involves building survivors’ trust in University policies and administrators so that victims report their assaults. “It is my belief that unless we increase reporting, we cannot maintain a safe campus,” she wrote. 

The University also announced that Shirley Everett, senior associate vice provost of Residential and Dining Enterprises, will serve as senior adviser to the provost on equity and inclusion, and that Matthew Rascoff, who comes to Stanford from Duke University, will serve as special adviser to the provost for digital education and innovation.

“From listening to the Stanford community, we know that we need to build organizational strength in these areas that are critical to the wellbeing of our community and to the future of the university,” Drell said in a statement to Stanford Today.

This article has been corrected to reflect that Dauber did not accuse the athletics department of inadequately responding to multiple sexual assault incidents and that her statement on Stanford’s processes were not connected to Dunkley’s appointment, as a previous version of the article incorrectly stated. The Daily regrets these errors. 

Cameron Ehsan is a junior at Stanford studying neurobiology. He served as a news editor and newsroom development director for Vol. 261 and was the Vol. 260 winter managing editor.Kathryn Zheng ’24 is from New Jersey. She is majoring in Economics and currently writes for Arts and Life as a columnist under the Culture desk.

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