Provost reports on Title IX process

Persis Drell
Provost Persis Drell

Earlier this year, I said I would provide a progress report to the Stanford community this spring on the first year of the Student Title IX Process, our new pilot process for hearing cases of sexual harassment, stalking, relationship violence and sexual violence involving students.

I’m writing now to do that. This is the first step in what will be expanded disclosure of information, in aggregate form, about the process and the cases that go through it. In the first part of 2018, we intend to begin providing a regular, annual report on these issues.

As a campus, we have been working to strengthen three pillars of our Title IX efforts – education and prevention, support for survivors, and fair and effective investigation and adjudication. I believe it’s important to provide the community with a view of the outcomes of the investigation and adjudication process, given our shared interest as a community in combatting sexual violence. This letter is a start.

I’m also providing an update on the work being done by the advisory committee of faculty and students that has been monitoring the Title IX process.

Before getting into these topics, I think it’s important to remind ourselves of the prevalence of sexual violence in our society, and at Stanford. I should be clear that I am using the term “sexual violence” to refer to what our community has been calling both “sexual assault” and “sexual misconduct.” These offenses can range from nonconsensual sexual touching to forcible rape.

In 2015, approximately 40 percent of our undergraduate women who were surveyed said they had experienced sexual violence in some form at Stanford. That includes a range of conduct, as mentioned above – all of it unwanted.

Other institutions have reported similar numbers. If you assume the figure has been at least as high over time in our country’s colleges and universities, you can quickly come to the conclusion that in any given room of women, 80 percent to 90 percent of us have either personally experienced sexual violence or have witnessed its devastating effects first hand on a very close friend or family member.

Men too are victimized by sexual violence, and as we know from our own survey data, the impact is even greater on transgender, gender-nonconforming and/or non-binary individuals.

I welcome the spotlight that has been shining on the issue of sexual violence, both nationally and at Stanford. We have much more to do.

First 15 months of the pilot Title IX Process

The Student Title IX Process was adopted as a pilot based on recommendations from the 2014-15 Provost’s Task Force on Sexual Assault. For it to be adopted as ongoing university policy, the process will need to be approved after the pilot phase by bodies including the Board on Judicial Affairs, ASSU Undergraduate Senate, Graduate Student Council and Faculty Senate. This will come up for approval during academic year 2018-19.

Since the inception of the pilot Student Title IX Process on Feb. 1, 2016, through May 15, 2017, there have been 36 completed or currently ongoing investigations. It is important to be clear that these investigations cover all Title IX matters involving students, including all forms of nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual harassment, relationship violence and stalking, as well as offenses such as violating a no-contact order from a prior Title IX case.

So far, 29 of the 36 matters have gone through a complete investigation process, resulting in:

8 hearings
14 non-hearing resolutions
7 no-charge decisions after investigation by the Title IX Office
Two other cases are currently awaiting a hearing, and five more are currently being investigated, for the total of 36.

In addition to the 36 investigated cases, there have been 29 informal interventions in response to Title IX reports. These are discussed further below.

So in total, over a period of 15 months, students have come forward to the university with 65 reports of conduct prohibited under our Title IX policy that have been managed through the Student Title IX Process.

I hope this is a sign of increasing trust in the university to manage these cases fairly and effectively, but we know that we can do better. In addition to the 65 cases, we have had another 61 unverified reports, mostly from third parties, of prohibited conduct in which complainants did not want to come forward. And some cases never come to the attention of the Title IX Office.

The majority of investigated cases involve undergraduate students, though there have been cases involving graduate students. The vast majority of complainants also have been undergraduate women, though men have been complainants as well.

Here is what we know about the different categories of cases:

Cases that went to a hearing

To date under the pilot process, eight Title IX cases have gone to a hearing. In four of the eight cases, the panel found responsibility, all by 3-0 votes (as is required in our process for a finding of responsibility). In the other four cases, the panel found non-responsibility – on a 0-3 vote in three cases and a 1-2 vote (one for responsibility and two against responsibility) in the other.

In no instance so far have we seen the situation of a single panelist preventing a finding of responsibility.

Hearing panels established these penalties for the four findings of responsibility:

Four-quarter suspension
Three-quarter suspension
Two-quarter suspension
Delay in degree conferral
Under Stanford’s current policy, there is an expected penalty of expulsion for findings of sexual assault involving force or incapacitation. Of the cases that went to a hearing, we have not yet had a finding of responsibility in a case in which expulsion has been the expected penalty.

Non-hearing resolutions

To date there have been 14 non-hearing resolutions. These are for Title IX cases in which there is no significant dispute between the students about the facts or remedies in a case, meaning the hearing process is not needed to obtain a fair outcome agreeable to both parties. A non-hearing resolution is only available if both parties want one; if either wishes to have a panel hearing instead, they will have it.

The outcomes in the non-hearing resolution process have been:

One permanent separation from the university (equivalent to expulsion)
One one-year leave of absence from the university
One five-year ban from campus
11 resolutions involving no-contact directives and other remedies
As is required, in all cases the complainant agreed to the sanctions.

Informal interventions

In addition to investigated cases, 29 other complainants’ matters have been addressed through informal interventions. This process is used when complainants did not want the university to conduct a full investigation. A number of reasons were given for not wanting to move forward to a formal investigation; the most commonly cited reasons included a complainant’s request to remain anonymous and a complainant’s request to address sexual harassment through counseling in order to change behavior.

In addition to counseling individual students, these interventions have included providing group training, changing housing assignments and asking students to stay away from complainants. The goal is to address the reported behavior to the extent possible while honoring the wishes of the complainant and not engaging in the full investigation process.

Even where there has been an informal intervention, a formal resolution and sanction are still possible if a complainant decides to proceed with an investigation. Thus, informal interventions are considered to be a first step in redressing concerns, but often one intervention is all that is needed to remedy a concern.

Looking at additional characteristics

As we collate and analyze these data on reported Title IX offenses, we are beginning to look at other dimensions of the data. For instance, we are gathering data about the relationship between alcohol and drugs and unwanted sexual conduct. Of those cases involving sexual violence that have been investigated, nearly 75 percent involved alcohol or drug consumption by one or both parties.

Nationally, there also has been attention to whether certain segments of the college undergraduate population may have increased numbers of sexual perpetrators. We are working to understand through data whether any of those concerns are justified at Stanford.

So far, we have seen a smaller proportion of accused male student-athletes in the Student Title IX Process than in the male student population as a whole. We also have seen no overrepresentation of fraternity houses as the location of a Title IX incident; we are beginning to collect data to assess further whether there is any relationship between participation in a fraternity/sorority activity – such as attendance at a fraternity party – and a Title IX offense happening later that night in another part of campus. We are also beginning to collect data on student group membership for both complainants and accused students.

There is understandable interest in the community to have more details on the numbers of specific offenses and their sanctions. At this point we do not have a sufficient number of cases to provide more detailed aggregated numbers while still sufficiently protecting the identities of individual complainants and respondents. With time, we will be able to provide more granularity. We will continue to report on these issues in each annual report.

Advisory committee update

An advisory committee of faculty and students, chaired by Law Professor Pamela Karlan, is monitoring the pilot Student Title IX Process and will be making recommendations for potential improvements to it. That committee needs your confidential feedback, which you can provide using a form on the Not Alone website.

The committee has provided input to me about one issue I specifically asked it to address in an accelerated manner, having to do with the ending of the contract of one of the Stanford-sponsored attorneys in the Student Title IX Process.

Stanford currently offers each student in a Title IX proceeding up to nine hours of consultation time with one of several outside attorneys. The attorneys are trained in Stanford’s process and are paid by Stanford for their services.

The advisory committee has investigated the decision to end the contract of one of the attorneys in the program and reported to me that the decision “was made in good faith and was not motivated, in whole or in part, by comments [the attorney] made to reporters criticizing Stanford’s processes,” adding that “the decision was made before [the attorney] had made any public statements about the program.” The committee also recommended institution of a process for reviewing attorneys, providing feedback and creating a process to communicate with attorneys about their continued participation in the program. The committee will make further recommendations about the attorney program and other aspects of the pilot program in the coming months.

There will be much more to come on our Title IX Process and on our expanding efforts to combat sexual violence, as well. New educational efforts are now being developed. We will be evaluating the use of new tools such as Callisto, which we recently adopted at the urging of the ASSU to provide another route for students to report cases of sexual violence. And we continue to welcome ideas from students and other members of our community.

These issues continue to have the highest attention of both Marc and me. I appreciate your partnership in our efforts.

Persis Drell