Preventing sexual assault a focus in new academic year

At New Student Orientation and throughout the upcoming year, Stanford and its students are expanding efforts to prevent and respond to sexual assault. Meanwhile, a task force continues meeting to develop recommendations for improvements in campus policies and practices, and community input is welcomed.

Student-athletes talk about how 'It’s On Us,' as a community, to prevent sexual assault and relationship violence.

As incoming undergraduates settle into their new homes at Stanford this week, they are becoming familiar with the expanded educational activities the university will be doing on a critical topic: sexual assault.

A broad range of activities will occur this year, with the aim of empowering students to play a personal role in fostering a respectful campus climate and preventing acts of sexual violence.

Provost John Etchemendy addressed the topic head-on in his annual talk with the incoming class Wednesday. As part of a presentation on Stanford's expectations for student conduct under the Fundamental Standard and Honor Code, Etchemendy emphasized the responsibility of individuals to act in accord with Stanford's values and to reject behaviors and attitudes that, left unchallenged, can create an environment for sexual misconduct.

He also screened a new video featuring Stanford student-athletes talking about sexual assault as something "It's On Us" – all of us – to help prevent at Stanford.

"At Stanford, we believe all students should be able to study and live in an atmosphere free of harassment, sexual violence and gender discrimination," Etchemendy said. "No one – man or woman – should ever feel intimidated or threatened on the Stanford campus, or fear that they will be victimized on the basis of sex or gender. Everyone should feel confident that others would stand up and support them if they were victimized. And I want you to know that if sexual violence of any type is reported on this campus, we investigate to the best of our ability and hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions. Everyone on this campus has a right to feel safe."

Aaron KehoeProvost John Etchemendy address students at New Student Orientation program

Provost John Etchemendy addresses incoming undergraduates at a New Student Orientation session Wednesday.

The new freshman class already had been introduced to the topic. Incoming undergraduates were asked to take a new online training this summer focusing on healthy relationships, the importance of establishing affirmative consent before sex, the critical role of bystanders in intervening when they see potentially dangerous situations unfolding around them, preventing alcohol from clouding decision making and other related issues.

Later this week, as part of New Student Orientation, they will be attending a further in-person educational program. The first part of the program, "The Real World: Stanford," is a theatrical production by Stanford students touching on bystander intervention, consent, sexual assault, alcohol abuse and other topics. The second part, "Facing Reality: Cultivating a Community of Respect and Consent," is a session focusing on sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking, presented in partnership with the Associated Students (ASSU). The program will lead into further residence-based discussions in the evening.

Students also will be given a brochure, also developed in partnership with the ASSU, that defines the conduct prohibited by university policy and describes the confidential counseling, medical and other resources available to students.

Stanford has had a variety of sexual assault prevention programs and resources for many years. This week's orientation activities are part of an expanded set of initiatives as colleges and universities across the country pursue new efforts to prevent sexual assault and relationship violence. Simultaneously, a campus task force is working on recommendations for improvements in policies and practices at Stanford for the longer term.

Stanford's educational programming reflects the new "Yes Means Yes" legislation in the State of California requiring colleges to use the standard of affirmative consent in their sexual assault policies – as Stanford already does. Stanford's activities also are supportive of the White House's "It's On Us" campaign to prevent sexual assault on college campuses.

"Through our campus collaborations and engagement efforts – with students, parents, faculty and staff – we are seeking to cultivate and sustain a campus culture that is free of sexual violence and characterized by caring and respect for one another," said Catherine Criswell, Title IX coordinator at Stanford. "As part of these efforts, we want to encourage upstanders who speak up and safely intervene, be clear where survivors of sexual assault and relationship violence can turn for help and report concerns, educate students on what sexual assault is and what consent looks like, and emphasize the impact of alcohol use."

Among the activities at Stanford beyond this week's orientation activities:

  • Task force: The Provost's Task Force on Sexual Assault Policies and Practices, which began meeting this summer, will continue this fall. Co-chaired by Law School Dean M. Elizabeth Magill and ASSU President Elizabeth Woodson, the task force will be making recommendations for improvements in sexual assault education and prevention, support following an incident, and investigative and disciplinary processes. The task force is encouraging comments and suggestions from the campus community via an online form.
  • Educational programming: Beyond the training provided to new undergraduates online this summer and at New Student Orientation, Stanford will be providing a range of programs for both new and continuing students – including activities organized directly by students. Residence-based discussions, film screenings, guest speakers and trainings for various small groups of students and employees are planned, with additional recommendations to come from the task force. Training on sexual harassment and sexual assault also continues to be provided for faculty and staff, both online and in person, through the Sexual Harassment Policy Office in partnership with the Title IX Office.
  • More staffing and resources: Stanford earlier this year hired a new Title IX coordinator to oversee the investigation and resolution of complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault under Title IX along with training for students, faculty and staff. Stanford is in the process of hiring an additional Title IX investigator for this office. In addition, the campus is hiring additional counselors specifically to provide 24/7 confidential support to survivors of sexual assault.
  • Campus climate survey: Stanford is in the planning stages for a campus climate survey to be conducted later this academic year, broadly assessing the climate of the Stanford campus around issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Stanford continues to provide a range of informational resources regarding sexual assault on its Not Alone website. The site includes resources for those seeking support, information about reporting an incident, a listing of relevant policies, answers to frequently asked questions about how Stanford responds to reported incidents of sexual assault, and more information about the Provost's Task Force on Sexual Assault Policies and Practices.