Stanford Announces Committee to Address Sex Assault After Rape Outcry

The backlash stemming from Stanford's decision has attracted national attention garnered faculty support and even prompted some Stanford alumni to withdraw donations.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Stanford student and assault survivor Leah Francis claims the university has been dragging its feet on her case.

    On the same day a vociferous protest was held at Stanford to show disappointment over the university's decision to not expel a student accused of rape, a special committee was announced to address sexual assault.

    The backlash stemming from Stanford's decision has attracted national attention, garnered faculty support and even prompted some Stanford alumni to withdraw donations.

    Assault survivor Leah Francis and her supporters claim the university has been dragging its feet on the case and want mandatory expulsion for those found responsible for sex assualt.

    “He's walking away from his undergraduate career with almost complete lack of consequence for forcible raping another student,” Francis said.

    After a five month investigation into the alleged sex assault that happened off-campus in Francis's home town of Juno, Alaska, the university decided that the accused student is not a threat to the campus. University administrators ruled to withhold his undergraduate degree for two years, denying him entry into graduate school until 2016.

    Students rallied outside a Faculty Senate meeting on campus Thursday, during which faculty member David Palumbo-Liu questioned provost John Etchemendy about how the university plans to handle sex assault cases:

    "There is a clearly a strong intuition in the world generally, and among our students in particular, that where a student is found responsible for sexual assault they should be expelled unless there is very significant mitigation, Palumbo-Liu asked. "Can you comment on the fact that in its history Stanford has expelled only one student for sexual assualt (and suspened 8 others) and also how you intend to address this?"

    In response, Etchemendy infomed the Senate Faculty about the new committee, set to launch in June.

    Stanford has so far declined to comment on Francis's case, citing the university's confidential disciplinary process.

    Etchemendy told faculty Thursday that it is inevitable that in difficult and highly-charged cases, one party or the other, and often both, will be unhappy with aspects of the process or outcome.

    "We all have to take responsibility for the climate on campus," he said.

    Stanford spokesperson Lisa Lupin said that a major component of the committee is about education.

    'It is being formed in part as a way to thoroughly examine the recent issues raised by students around sexual assault," she said.

    Etchemendy said that while a committee is always a good first step, the real test "is what happens when these cases come forward."

    "We are optimistic but we are not taking anything for granted," he said.