Stanford launched a new Protected Identity Harm (PIH) Reporting process that is intended to support students who have been harmed by bias-related incidents, according to a Tuesday message from Associate Vice Provost for Inclusion, Community and Integrative Learning Emelyn dela Peña and Dean of Students Mona Hicks.
The new protocol comes over a year after the University tasked a working group with updating the policy, formerly known as the Acts of Intolerance Protocol, in the summer of 2020.
“The goal really was to center harm reduction and ensure that students feel like they’re heard,” Assistant Dean for Student Support Ankita Rakhe told The Daily.
PIH Reporting addresses incidents that “adversely and unfairly” target an individual or group on the basis of protected identities, according to the message. These identities include race, color, national or ethnic origin, gender or sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, among other characteristics protected by law.
Given free speech protections on college campuses and California’s Leonard Law, which prohibits private universities from taking disciplinary action against a student for speech protected by the First Amendment or California Constitution, it is difficult for the University to implement punitive measures to hold students accountable for bias-related incidents, unless they rise to the level of a hate crime, unlawful harassment or discrimination, according to the message.
The PIH Reporting process is instead intended to pivot the response to focus on the harmed student and ensure that those affected by bias-related incidents feel heard and valued, Rakhe said. She described the process as intended to be “reflective and trying to cater to what the student needs to be able to feel validated.”
Students can report incidents that “range from micro-aggressions to macro-aggressions” and occur “on campus, off campus or online and can be perpetrated by a known or unknown person,” the message states. The perpetrator does not need to be a Stanford student or community member.
Rakhe said that the process offers students two reporting routes.
First, reporting students can go the “data route,” in which they report a bias-related incident for the purpose of providing the University with valuable data and a more accurate picture of the campus climate. This approach is intended to inform the University’s preventative response.
Reporting students can also choose to take what Rakhe calls the “connection route,” in which they report a harmful incident in the hopes of receiving resources and support. In this case, the University still receives data on the incident but is also able to directly connect with the harmed student, so long as they have submitted a non-anonymous report. Rakhe can then initiate a conversation with the reporting student. The conversation could include leaders from related groups or organizations on campus, like a cultural community center, but it is up to the student to decide who they want to attend.
That conversation is not only aimed to help students with harm reduction and moving forward from an incident, but could also be used to initiate a community response, like an email from a community group. Individuals and communities can choose from a menu of resolutions, including counseling, nature-based healing experiences and educational workshops, Rahke said.
The reporting student can also decide whether or not they want to notify and include the responding party in their response. One choice of resolution is conflict mediation, in which both the reporting and responding parties agree to have a mediated conversation.
“It is important to note that PIH Reporting is not a judicial or investigative process, though our goal is to provide a path to resolution for affected individuals or communities,” Hicks and dela Peña wrote.
They added that many students already used the new PIH reporting process to file over 600 reports “for anti-Black, homophobic, misogynistic and threatenening social media posts by another student,” presumably in reference to Chaze Vinci ’23, who is no longer enrolled at Stanford.
“There is no perfect process,” Rakhe said. “But what we really are trying to ensure is that there’s transparency. There is a response, a timely response. And that students feel like they’re heard, someone is listening to them, someone is paying attention and someone cares about them.”