New leaders in Stanford’s SHARE Title IX Office discuss their roles in preventing and addressing sexual violence and harassment
Stephen Chen is Title IX coordinator and director of the SHARE Office; Christina Franzino joins the university in a new position as director of client services.
This year Stanford welcomed two new leaders to the SHARE (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Education) Title IX Office: Stephen Chen, Title IX coordinator and director of the SHARE Office, and Christina Franzino, director of client services.
Formerly a supervisory attorney in the Denver regional office of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Chen oversees the university’s Title IX response and prevention education as well as policy concerns related to sexual harassment, sexual violence and other prohibited conduct. He started at Stanford at the end of spring quarter.
Franzino most recently served at George Washington University as assistant director for sexual assault prevention and response. In her role at Stanford, she works with any university community member who has been affected by sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating/domestic violence, stalking or retaliation.
The two leaders discussed their roles and their commitment to developing sexual citizenship at Stanford and reducing incidents of sexual assault and harassment.
What drew you to this position at Stanford?
Chen: I was most drawn to this position because of the opportunity to work on these issues in a proactive and preventative way. I’ve really enjoyed the collaborations that I’ve already had with various campus units and offices. It’s energizing to be able to be part of a team of very smart, very committed and very creative people to problem solve collectively.
How did your background prepare you for this role?
Franzino: When I was a college undergraduate, I worked as an advocate on my own campus to help improve response to sexual violence and harassment. After I graduated, I worked for several non-profits in Washington, D.C., that provided community resources, legal services and engaged in policy work around campus sexual violence prevention and response. This included time with President Biden’s initiative to promote upstander intervention, It’s On Us.
The most important piece of my background is that I have significant experience providing trauma-informed care and resources to individuals who have experienced harassment and violence. Working directly with people and being able to talk through concerns and help find a path forward for them is what drives me in the work that I do.
Can you describe the principles that guide your work?
Chen: As an office, we’re guided by a few principles that are really core to the identity of SHARE Title IX. On the education side, we’re guided by the principles of good sexual citizenship – that everyone has the right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to sex and that we must honor and respect those choices of others. On the response side, we are guided by the principle of affirmation, equity and fairness in our process and in offering healing to survivors of sexual assault and harassment.
Everyone in the SHARE office is motivated by a profound sense of care and compassion for every member of the Stanford community.
What are your goals for this year?
Chen: Our primary goal is to provide the best possible support for our community in this area and to build community understanding and trust in the support, services and educational resources our office provides.
I know that the circumstances that bring someone in contact with our office are not pleasant, but I really want everyone with whom we interact to be heard and cared for through our process. We may not always be able to reach the desired outcome, but I want our process to be transparent, understood, fair and equitable.
What it really comes down to is that we’re trying to make the Stanford community safer, more respectful and more caring when it comes to sexual interactions and expressions of one’s sexual identity – in other words, to promote sexual citizenship.
Franzino: As I get to know the Stanford community, and we all adjust to returning to in-person life on campus, I am committed to building relationships on campus.
In my role, I oversee all incoming concerns to our office. This includes oversight of direct services such as outreach to impacted parties, talking with individuals about options and resources and implementing supportive measures. I also work in conjunction with our community partners to help establish next steps in how to best address concerns.
I want the Stanford community to know that they can come to me and talk through any concerns they are having and that they don’t need to pursue any formal processes if they don’t want to. Whether that is someone who has experienced an incident and isn’t sure how to move forward or someone who has received a disclosure and wants to talk through how to respond, I am here to help figure it out with them.
How do you involve student advocates in the work of the SHARE Title IX Office?
Chen: Our student advocates play an important role in helping us understand what’s working and what’s not. I like to hear from them because their viewpoints help us to see our work from multiple perspectives. We meet with and receive input from campus activists regularly, and we listen carefully to their suggestions. Through those dialogues, we try to constantly get better at the work that we do and find better ways to support our community.
Franzino: I want to learn more about experiences of community members who haven’t traditionally been involved in campus sexual violence prevention – graduate students, post-docs, staff and historically marginalized and minoritized folks. I’m available to listen and want to incorporate these voices so that we can most effectively serve the Stanford community.
What are some of the challenges of working in this realm?
Chen: We receive a number of reports of harassment and assault, but a majority of those reports don’t materialize into complaints that we can investigate. Many times that’s for good reason – a complainant doesn’t want to proceed for their own reasons or the incident falls outside of our authority. Other times, we’re able to address the complaint for the parties through an intervention or through a supportive measure.
From the outside looking in, it may appear that we’re not responding to these reports, but our office is actively involved with each report that we receive. In addition, we can’t disclose – for privacy reasons – what we did in a specific case. Our office is committed to fulfilling our duties in a neutral manner – ensuring that all parties to a case are treated fairly.
It’s a challenge to be simultaneously supportive of a victim while also needing to honor the due process rights of the responding party, but we believe that we strike this balance effectively and that we can deliver fairness, care and compassion to all parties.
On the education side of things, I think it’s a challenge to keep awareness of these issues high so that we can increase our bystander interventions as well as ensure that the community is as thoughtful and respectful with one another as possible. We’re trying to make these principles a habit, so we’re able to be our best selves as sexual citizens in any circumstance. To that end, we’re constantly trying to find ways to keep our training sessions engaging, fresh and meaningful.
Franzino: Because of the nature of these topics and this work, we have to engage in self and community care intentionally. This can be difficult but is necessary to avoid burnout.
How do the recent changes in the Title IX regulations affect the work of your office?
Chen: Overall, I think the new Title IX regulations put an emphasis on equity for both complainants and respondents during the course of an investigation. That’s not inconsistent with our duty to be a neutral arbiter of these matters – it’s always been important for both parties to be treated fairly.
The new regulations introduce a greater formality to the hearing process, and that can make it feel more like a court trial. I think that level of formality can be intimidating and tends to dissuade individuals from reporting incidents. We work really hard to demystify that process and make it as accessible as possible, but it can feel like an uphill battle.
What are some of the misperceptions about the Title IX/SHARE Office?
Chen: Stanford leadership is deeply committed to ending sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus and in society more broadly. The SHARE Title IX team helps reinforce that goal by providing support for those affected by these issues, preventive educational resources and a process for adjudication.
Knowing Stanford’s strong commitment to this issue, I am very concerned about the misperception by some in our community that the university “protects rapists.” This misperception can be very damaging. We run the risk of a victim of sexual assault internalizing that message and being discouraged from filing a complaint with our office, or from reporting it to one of the other reporting resources on campus – including residence staff, Confidential Support Team, CAPS, the Ethics and Compliance Helpline among others – because they, incorrectly, assume no action will be taken or that we’re going to be on the side of the perpetrator.
Our office is a neutral investigator and adjudicator of these incidents, and we do all that we can to provide support to anyone in the Stanford community who is experiencing sexual harassment or assault.
What are some of the resources for those who have been affected by sexual assault and sexual harassment?
Franzino: The SHARE Title IX Office provides a number of resources and services. In fact, many community members we work with choose only to utilize our supportive measures.
In the vast majority of cases, someone who has been affected by a Title IX related issue can seek supportive measures without initiating any kind of reporting process. Those supportive measures include, but are not limited to, academic and housing support, mutual no-contact orders, talking through reporting options, counseling referrals and referrals to community organizations such as the YWCA at Stanford.
Each meeting with an individual is unique, and supportive measures often look different depending on the needs of the individual. If anyone is unsure on whether the Title IX Office can provide the support they need, just give us a call! We are happy to talk through those questions.
The SHARE Title IX Office went through restructuring last year. How has that affected your work?
Chen: The SHARE Title IX Office is composed of two teams: a response team and an education team. Prior to this, there were three different offices on campus that were basically operating in the same space – the Title IX Office, the Sexual Harassment Policy Office (SHPO) and the Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse Education and Response Office (SARA).
We saw an opportunity to bring those teams together through one unified vision so that we could collaborate with one another and build off of the synergy that such collaborations represent. Every day, each member of our team is seeing new ways in which their work informs and bolsters the efforts of their colleagues within SHARE.
For more information on the SHARE/Title IX Office, visit the SHARE website.