Friday, January 06, 2017

Catching up: Stanford

The infamous case of Brock Turner, former Stanford student athlete who sexually assaulted a woman, was found guilty and served 3 months for the crime, apparently has taught Stanford University very little. The mindset of administrators is similar to that of the judge who sentenced Turner--who raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and then left her there. There is a fear of ruining the lives of the men who commit these crimes. Consequently, some of them are still on campus and the university is facing lawsuits and complaints about how it handles sexual assault.

[Interesting bit of information: most of the complaints pending against Stanford were ongoing at the time of the Turner case--something we did not hear much about in the coverage of that case. ]

Stanford currently is piloting a new program: using a 3-person panel and requiring the decision to punish be unanimous--not a simple majority--because “being expelled is really a life-changing punishment” according to the provost.The unanimity standard was put into practice in 2016. Expulsion is the only option if the accused/investigated is found responsible.

Two weeks ago The New York Times wrote a feature on Stanford and its handling of a 2015 case in which a disciplinary panel of 5 found a football player guilty of sexual assault--twice.  Correction: a simple majority of the panel members found him guilty. But the standard at the time was a 4-1 decision requirement.  So he was never punished and played last week in Stanford's bowl game. The victim, who studied elsewhere for a semester has not decided is she will return to Stanford.

Backing up a little though. Stanford has several Title IX complaints pending. Filed by former students, the complaints are centered on how the university investigates Title IX complaints as well as the disciplinary process. Again, as noted above, Standford has been changing their policies and procedures, and apparently are eager to avoid the feds coming to Palo Alto for a visit. In December, BuzzFeed reported that at least two of the women--both victims of sexual assault--who have filed OCR complaints were offered money in exchange for the withdrawal of the complaints. In one of those cases the money was offered under the guise of support for therapy and other expenses resulting from the assault; but conditional upon withdrawal of the complaint. (Withdrawal of a complaint does not guarantee that OCR will drop its investigation. It does not require a complaint be filed in order to initiate an investigation.)

As a reminder, the student-run marching band has been dormant this year (except for bowl games!?) in the wake of revelations about hazing--of a sexual nature. (All hazing deserves punishment; the nature of this hazing speaks to the campus climate, which is why I mentioned it.)

In addition to the OCR complaints, a lawsuit was filed against the school in December. A woman who was physically and sexually assaulted by a man with whom she had tried to end relations encountered resistance from university staff and officials as she made her way through the process. She heard the now unfortunately common responses to sexual assault that included questions about whether she really wanted to have sex with him (from a counselor) and whether she really wanted to pursue charges against the assailant, who admitted to student life staff that he did indeed rape the woman in question. Punishment was not pursued because staff believed he was sorry and would not re-offend.

He re-offended. Against at least two other women at Stanford.  He graduated as a student in good standing in 2014. He was issued a 10-year ban from campus.

Stanford is pushing back against the media coverage of its many complaints and several lawsuits. There is a lot of PR happening. There is a lot more to come.