A renewed commitment to helping students harmed by bias-related incidents
In a message to all students, Emelyn dela Peña, associate vice provost for Inclusion, Community and Integrative Learning, and Mona Hicks, senior associate vice provost and dean of students, outline important new information about Stanford's Protected Identity Harm Reporting protocol.
Content warning: This message contains examples of racism, bigotry, sexism, and anti-Semitism. These examples are employed to help us describe the Protected Identity Harm Reporting process.
Dear undergraduate, graduate and professional students,
We are writing today with important new information about Stanford’s Protected Identity Harm (PIH) Reporting protocol, a process we believe is a critical tool in addressing incidents of bias. Many of you may be familiar with the former name, Acts of Intolerance. After several months of benchmarking, research and discussion in collaboration with students, a working group made a recommendation to Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole to rename the process. We hope the new name captures the vision and intention of addressing harm to individuals and communities.
We want you to have the tools and information you need to help yourself and friends should any of you be harmed by a bias-related incident. We have clarified the process and resources based on student feedback, and we’d like to thank all students who have contributed to the improvements we’re presenting today.
The goal of the PIH process is two-fold: to help students who have been affected by these incidents to receive a meaningful response and potential resolution, and to serve as a mechanism for data collection to develop a deeper understanding of our campus climate. Our hope is the process will create an environment where students who report harm will feel heard and supported.
We would be remiss not to mention that many students already engaged in part of this new PIH reporting process in the late summer, when over 600 reports were filed for anti-Black, homophobic, misogynistic and threatening social media posts by another student. We would like to further acknowledge the widespread harm felt by members of our community, but especially communities targeted by the posts. The PIH Reporting process was created and remains in place with a focus on harm reduction through the reporting, response and resolution process.
What we’ll cover in this message:
- Basics on the PIH Reporting Process
- Student Feedback
- Changes and Updates
- Future Plans
What is the PIH Reporting process?
The PIH Reporting process is the University’s process for addressing incidents where a community member experiences harm because of their identity. The process addresses conduct or incidents that adversely and unfairly target an individual or group on the basis of one or more actual or perceived characteristics: race, color, national or ethnic origin, gender or sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, veteran status, marital status or any other characteristic protected by applicable law.
Examples of PIH incidents could include targeting a student with racist remarks on social media, making sexist jokes at a party, defacing fliers about LGBTQI+ rights, or calling someone an ethnic slur. These incidents can range from micro-aggressions to macro-aggressions and can happen on campus, off campus or online and can be perpetrated by a known or unknown person.
When an incident is a hate crime
Protected Identity Harm incidents can rise to the level of a hate crime, unlawful discrimination, or harassment, depending on the nature and severity of the incident and whether certain legal requirements are met. For example, defacing the side of a building by painting a swastika is a hate crime. Conduct that rises to the level of a hate crime, unlawful discrimination, or harassment may be referred to the Stanford University Department of Public Safety, Diversity and Access Office, SHARE Title IX Office, or other university offices including the Office of Community Standards.
It is important to note that PIH Reporting is not a judicial or investigative process, though our goal is to provide a path to resolution for affected individuals or communities.
Learning from student feedback
Over the past year, we learned a great deal from students in the working group, student staff in the Office of Inclusion, Community and Integrative Learning, and students in ASSU Executive Branch, the Graduate Student Council, the ASSU Senate, and through listening sessions with students. We’d like to respond to some important questions:
- Why isn’t there a punitive process for all PIH incidents? While the university may denounce these incidents as antithetical to our values and standards, most speech is protected unless it rises to the level of a hate crime, unlawful harassment, or discrimination. Stanford has other established resources ready to assist when a PIH incident does rise to these levels, including the Office of Community Standards, the Diversity and Access Office, and the SHARE Title IX Office. Even when harmful speech is protected, we are still here to help; students can still access the PIH Reporting process to address harm.
- Why can zero-tolerance policies exist in high schools, but not colleges? Essentially, the U.S. Supreme Court allows for K-12 schools to restrict speech to a greater degree than colleges. In the state of California, private universities are also accountable to the Leonard Law, which prevents a private university from subjecting a student to disciplinary action for speech that would otherwise be protected by the First Amendment or the California Constitution’s free speech clause.
- How are threats assessed on campus? There is a Threat Assessment Team that helps to ascertain perceived threats to campus, communities and individuals by working with university partners to look at warning signs and prevention techniques.
- Will students get notified about individual student reports? Because the PIH Reporting process is not judicial or disciplinary, responding parties have a choice to participate (if at all). Individuals involved in a report, whether targeted parties or offending parties, are not always made public. In matters that constitute hate crimes, harassment or unlawful discrimination, we comply with privacy laws and university policies when determining what information may be shared.
Changes we made
In addition to the name change, we also want to highlight the following changes that were made to the protocol since we updated you last year:
- The website has been redesigned to be clearer and allow for information to be discernable in digestible sections.
- The process was further refined to clarify the two-part system regarding connecting to support resources around harm reduction and data reporting.
- The reporting form itself is on a new system making it easier to complete and helping us to better capture and analyze data.
- A menu of resolutions is now online with details about each process to allow students to better understand options.
- Student staff in residential spaces were trained (or will be trained) to be better able to advise and help their residents.
- Social media content and videos will be created to educate students about the process, including the importance of reporting and what happens after a report is filed.
- Peer-to-peer trainings will be available for your residential community, student organization or other groups.
- We are open to feedback about the process. The website includes a form for feedback.
We encourage you to check out the website to learn more about the Protected Identity Harm Reporting process or reporting an incident. Please email any questions or concerns to email@example.com.
Emelyn dela Peña
Associate Vice Provost for Inclusion, Community and Integrative Learning
Senior Associate Vice Provost and Dean of Students