Stanford records 47% decline in reports of sexual violence over past year, citing reduced campus population

Dec. 1, 2021, 12:34 p.m.

Reported cases of sexual harassment, sexual violence and gender discrimination decreased by 47% in the past year, according to Stanford’s Annual Title IX/Sexual Harassment Report, which was released on Wednesday. Reports declined from 187 in the 2019-20 academic year to 98 in 2020-21, with the University citing COVID-19-related restrictions as a “likely” factor, Provost Persis Drell wrote in an email to the community.

Stanford has been releasing Annual Title IX/Sexual Harassment Reports since the 2016-17 academic year. Reported cases from pre-COVID years have ranged from 190 in the 2016-17 academic year to 279 in 2018-19 — a stark difference from the 98 cases reported in 2020-21. The data includes reports received from Aug. 14, 2020 to Aug. 31, 2021.

“Relative to prior years, there’s a dramatic decline in the sheer number, but the piece that I take away from that is that even with fewer people on campus this continues to be a problem,” said Stephen Chen, Stanford’s Title IX coordinator and director of the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Education (SHARE) Title IX Office, in a briefing with The Daily.

Campus data from the 2019-2021 academic years were impacted by COVID-19 and the drastic drop in the campus population, according to the University. Stanford received 187 reports during the 2019-20 academic year, when campus housed a full population before students were sent home in March due to the pandemic.

The reduced number of community members on campus in 2020-21 led to a decline in reported incidents in two ways, Chen said. First, with fewer individuals on campus, there were fewer opportunities for incidents to occur. Second, the smaller on-campus community led to a decrease in the number of reporting individuals. Chen also said that when more people are on campus and aware of incidents of sexual violence, the SHARE Title IX Office often receives duplicate reports of the same incident.

Stanford law professor and Title IX advocate Michele Dauber wrote in a statement to The Daily that based on the annual report, “Stanford’s culture of impunity appears to be getting worse.”

“Despite the fact that most students were not on campus and student social life was severely limited, sexual assault and harassment continued to occur,” she wrote, referencing the nine incidents of nonconsensual intercourse included in the report. “So far as I can tell, despite these and dozens of other reports of sexual violence and harassment, no student was expelled or even suspended. No one was terminated from employment even when found responsible for sexual harassment.”

While the report details the resolutions employed for each of the cases, it does not specify any instances of student suspension or expulsion or faculty termination. Two of the cases involving nonconsensual intercourse proceeded to a SHARE Hearing, with one of the cases resulting in the perpetrator being found not responsible and the other case being dismissed. 

Two university interventions were employed for two male undergraduates in cases involving nonconsensual touching. The report defines “intervention” as “an action to address a concern without a formal investigation,” which is “appropriate when the allegation, if true, would not rise to the level of a policy violation, but the conduct is nonetheless objectionable.” This includes remedies such as counseling, group training and changing housing assignments, among other interventions.

“There was no finding of a policy violation against a student last year,” according to University spokesperson E.J. Miranda, and as a result, no student was expelled or suspended.

“As an example, of the seven reports of sexual harassment that occurred in the student setting, two proceeded through an investigation,” he wrote. “One was resolved through mediation and the other was dismissed after investigation — there was not enough evidence to proceed to a hearing.”

For the remaining five student reports in that category, one impacted party requested not to move forward; in another case, not enough information was present for an investigation to follow, and two “were dealt with through a university intervention.” The final one “was still active at the time of our report,” Miranda wrote.

Four of the nine employment cases of sexual harassment that underwent investigation resulted in “policy violations and some disciplinary actions, including a suspension, a formal written reprimand, and no-contact orders,” Miranda wrote.

This fall, advocates sounded alarms that Stanford was entering a “deep red zone” — when students are most vulnerable to sexual assault — both because two classes of students were living on campus for the first time and due to the University’s new drug and alcohol policy. Advocates protested the policy at Sophomore Convocation amid concerns that it would chill sexual violence reporting. The University ultimately specified that victims and witnesses will not face disciplinary action if they report an incident of sexual violence involving underage drinking, but advocates said that the change did not constitute a sufficient protection of survivors. 

The University created the SHARE Title IX Office in October 2020 by consolidating the offices responsible for addressing education, prevention and response into one office. This initiative was spurred by two developments: an external review of these offices by leaders from peer institutions and new federal regulations regarding universities’ responses to sexual harrassment allegations under Title IX.

The bulk of the annual report concerns incident reports and responses, regardless of whether they proceeded to a full investigation. According to Chen, the University responds to every report they receive and the affected parties are given agency about whether to proceed in an investigative process. Of the reports, 27 involved misconduct in a professional or academic setting, 24 were “uncategorizable,” nine involved nonconsensual intercourse, seven involved stalking and five involved gender discrimination.

The report also outlines prevention education efforts made by the University. The SHARE Title IX Office has been engaging with education and prevention work by partnering with the Office of Substance Use Programs Education & Resources (SUPER Office), Voluntary Student Organizations (VSOs), Residential Education and the ASSU to implement Title IX trainings.

“We also hope that by making the data visible and accessible, it will encourage anyone experiencing unwanted sexual conduct to come forward so that the issue can be addressed,” Chen said.

This story has been updated to include comment from Stanford law professor Michele Dauber. It has also been updated to include additional information regarding the case resolutions outlined in the report for both students and faculty/staff.

This article has been updated to include information from University spokesperson E.J. Miranda.

Matthew Turk ’24 is a managing editor for The Stanford Daily. He leads the mobile app development team as well and expects to major in computer science. Matthew has participated in several technical and financial internship programs. From January to May 2021, he worked with the frontend development team at Blocklight Analytics in his hometown of Chicago and was the engineering fellow at The Texas Tribune this past summer. His debut novel, An Invincible Summer, went on sale in stores in February. Ask Matthew about astrophysics, football and the automotive industry. Contact him at mturk ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.Chelsea Cho '25 is from Los Angeles, CA. She is interested in the intersection of AI, economics, and public policy. Contact Chelsea at news ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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