Faculty Senate discusses Stanford’s Pilot Student Title IX Process

At the Feb. 23 Faculty Senate meeting, Catherine Glaze, Title IX coordinator, and Pamela Karlan, chair of the Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault Policies and Practices, presented reports on Stanford’s Pilot Student Title IX Process.

The Faculty Senate had a lengthy conversation Thursday about Stanford’s Pilot Student Title IX Process for handling cases of sexual assault and other sexual offenses, as well as the work of the Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault Policies and Practices, which is evaluating the pilot process and considering ways to improve it.

Catherine Glaze, coordinator of the Stanford Title IX Office, said in the year since the pilot process launched in February 2016, the office has seen a total of 34 cases. Of 19 cases adjudicated, 13 were resolved through non-hearing resolutions; six went through panel hearings, with three findings of responsibility and three findings of no responsibility.

Pamela Karlan at the Faculty Senate.

Law Professor Pamela Karlan, chair of the Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault Policies and Practices, addressing the Faculty Senate on Thursday. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

In six other cases, the office decided not to proceed with a charge. Currently, there are two pending cases and seven active investigations. The office has also conducted 20 informal interventions, ranging from counseling individual students to providing training to student organizations.

Glaze described the hearing process, which relies on three-person panels selected from a standing group of highly trained faculty, staff and graduate students to adjudicate cases. Panelists must determine whether allegations are supported by “the preponderance of evidence,” a standard that is mandated both by California law and by the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education. The three panelists must agree unanimously for the accused to be found responsible.

Glaze said Stanford has incorporated innovative features into the process.

“One of the most important innovative features we have is the Confidential Support Team,” she said. “These are counselors who are dedicated to working with people impacted by sexual violence. It could be the complainant. It could be the responding student. It could be the roommate of one of the parties. It could be a witness. It could even be Mom or Dad calling in and needing some help and needing some guidance.”

Pamela S. Karlan, a professor of public interest law and chair of the advisory committee, said the group is focusing on four issues, including a recent request from Provost Persis Drell for input and advice on the use of outside lawyers as university-paid advisers to students going through the pilot Title IX process, as well as the recent non-renewal of an attorney in that program.

Karlan, quoting the committee’s charge from Drell, said the provost’s own review led her to conclude that the non-renewal was appropriate, based on the current structure of the attorney program and based on a review of documents associated with the case. However, the provost has asked for the advisory committee’s input on several questions associated with the use of attorneys in the program overall, including how attorneys should be chosen and evaluated. Drell also asked for any recommendations from the committee about the recent non-renewal case itself.

Karlan said the advisory committee is also focusing on nomenclature, including the definitions of sexual assault and sexual misconduct; the requirement for a unanimous decision by the three panelists for the accused to be found responsible; and the role of the appellate officer in the Title IX process.

“The question of how you define the offenses is an important question to think about, because it’s related to how you determine what the presumptive punishments should be,” she said. “So we’re going to be thinking about that issue, looking at how it’s defined at other schools, looking at how it’s defined in criminal law and figuring out a nomenclature that will respect the views of the community, but that also will be accurate and will map onto how we think about sanctions.”

Karlan said Stanford’s 3-0 panel unanimity requirement for a finding of responsibility has received the greatest focus under the new process, including comments, criticisms and support. Karlan noted that many universities have a single decision maker rather than panels, and that an advantage to several decision makers is their discussion.

“It’s important for people to understand that the vote occurs after deliberation among the members of the hearing panel,” she said. “It’s not as if they each go back to a room and they press a button and we look at the result. This is the result of discussion. You could just as easily call it a consensus as calling it unanimity.”

She said the panels have not encountered a situation in which a lone holdout prevents the panel from getting to a finding of responsibility.

“We will continue to monitor that,” she said.

She praised the work of university leadership on the issue.

“As someone who came late to the issue at Stanford, as opposed to the issue more generally, one of the things I’ve been struck by in the past couple months as I’ve been working on this advisory committee is the tremendous efforts that people with whom I’ve been working with here in the university have made,” Karlan said, citing President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Drell, former Provost John Etchemendy, Vice Provost Stephanie Kalfayan, Glaze, and Lauren Schoenthaler, senior associate vice provost for institutional equity and access.

“They have spent tremendous amounts of time on this,” she continued. “I’ve been struck by the care and integrity of what they’ve been doing in dealing with some agonizingly difficult problems.”

Faculty members asked questions on topics including the 3-0 unanimity requirement, duration of investigations, the role of attorneys and non-hearing resolutions.

Karlan said the advisory committee has already received extensive feedback and continues to welcome comments from the campus community, which can provide input using a feedback form on the web.

The full minutes of the Feb. 23 meeting, including the discussion that followed the presentations by Glaze and Karlan, will be posted on the Faculty Senate website. The next senate meeting is scheduled for March 9.