Combating sexual violence at Stanford

President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy have issued the following letter to the campus community, providing an update on Stanford's efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence and calling on all members of the Stanford community to play a role.

Dear Friends in the Stanford Community:

As a new academic year begins, we want to take a moment to highlight an important issue for Stanford and for universities across the country: preventing sexual assault and all forms of sexual violence.

Sexual violence has no place in the Stanford community. Our very concept of community here at Stanford is based on principles of personal integrity and respect for others. Moreover, our campus policies expressly prohibit sexual assault, sexual misconduct, stalking and relationship violence.

In recent years, Stanford faculty, students and staff have undertaken a range of efforts to strengthen our approach to prevention and response. We have increased educational programming, established the SARA Office (Sexual Assault & Relationship Abuse Education & Response), articulated a Title IX policy on sexual violence, and hired a new Title IX coordinator focused on these issues, among other things.

But more is needed, and Stanford is moving forward in a number of ways.

The Provost's Task Force on Sexual Assault Policies and Practices began meeting this summer and will continue this fall. The task force, co-chaired by Law School Dean M. Elizabeth Magill and ASSU President Elizabeth Woodson, has been asked to review and make recommendations about Stanford's activities in three areas: education and prevention, support following an incident, and adjudication of reported cases of sexual violence, including both the disciplinary and Title IX administrative processes.

The task force will be reaching out to the campus community for input and is already accepting comments and suggestions via an online form. We encourage you to provide input to help inform the task force's deliberations.

While we await the recommendations of the task force, we are undertaking a range of additional efforts, starting in the area of educational programming.

All incoming undergraduates were required to take new online training this summer focused on healthy relationships, sexual assault, affirmative consent, bystander intervention and related issues. That training was supplemented by in-person presentations and discussions during New Student Orientation last week.

Our educational efforts will continue throughout the year so that we reach all of our students, both undergraduate and graduate. Residence-based programs, film screenings, guest speakers, small-group training and other efforts are all being planned. We are delighted that students have played a key role in these efforts. The ASSU worked with university staff this summer to produce a new brochure for students listing the available resources and explaining options for those who have suffered a sexual assault or relationship violence. Student-athletes helped produce an excellent video shown at New Student Orientation that highlights some of the key principles of sexual assault prevention. And students are organizing a unique program on bystander intervention planned for November.

In addition to expanded educational efforts, we are enhancing staffing and resources. We have already established the Title IX Office under the leadership of Catherine Criswell, who both investigates complaints of sexual misconduct under Title IX and coordinates sexual violence prevention efforts in partnership with the SARA Office, the Sexual Harassment Policy Office, students and others. We are in the process of hiring an additional Title IX investigator to support the work of the Title IX Office. We are also hiring additional counselors who will be available on a 24/7 basis specifically to provide support and assistance to survivors of sexual assault, on a confidential basis.

We are also planning for a campus-wide climate survey to be conducted later this year. And we continue to administer training for faculty and staff, both online and in person, on prevention and response to sexual harassment, including sexual assault, through the Sexual Harassment Policy Office.

These efforts all support initiatives that have been undertaken at the federal and state levels to address sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence. State legislation passed in California this summer sets an expectation for campuses to have policies requiring "affirmative consent," which Stanford has long had and as our educational programs all emphasize. The Obama administration has also been active in encouraging new campus prevention efforts through the "It's On Us" national campaign, which we are pleased to support.

The challenge truly is for all of us in the Stanford community to play an active role in preventing sexual assault and ensuring the safe, respectful campus community that we all value. We must view sexual assault not simply as an issue for "others," but one that we each play a role in preventing. Doing so means embracing the standard of affirmative consent, intervening rather than being a bystander, providing care and support to individuals in need, and reporting incidents when they occur.

Resources and much more information about Stanford's activities in this area are available on the web at Please join us in working to ensure a safe environment here at Stanford in which all members of our community may thrive.


John L. Hennessy

John Etchemendy