Widgets Magazine

Stanford Political Union hosts discussion on Title IX policy

On Wednesday, the Stanford Political Union (SPU) held its latest event aimed at putting differing views in dialogue, hosting two professors to discuss current issues with Stanford’s Title IX and other sexual violence policies.

The discussion featured psychology professor Jennifer Freyd from the University of Oregon and Professor John Villasenor, a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution. SPU member Jackson Lallas ’19 moderated.

The current policy of mandatory reporting and the lower standard of proof required in University processes compared to criminal cases were chief issues of concern during the discussion.

(Courtesy of Stanford Political Union)

Mandatory reporting and institutional betrayal

Freyd identified the common policy of mandated reporting as one of the primary areas she felt needs improvement.

At most universities, including Stanford, this policy requires employees considered “mandatory reporters” who become aware of an act of sexual violence to report it, regardless of whether the victim wants it reported or not. Some universities may define all employees as such. However, mandated reporting under this policy does not promise confidentiality, something Freyd seeks to reform.

Freyd suggested a shift to a more flexible policy in which neither faculty nor staff are compelled to report cases of sexual misconduct, but rather are encouraged to talk to the victim to find out what they want and support them accordingly. A fundamental problem of the existing policy, she claimed, is its potential to add to survivors’ trauma by taking control away from them.

“One of the most harmful things to do to a survivor of sexual violence is to take away their control,” Freyd said.

Freyd has focused much of her research on institutional betrayal, or the psychological effects of institution such as universities failing to respond appropriately to cases of trauma. In her studies, she said, she found an institution’s poor or inadequate response often caused nearly as much damage as the incident at hand.

Burden of proof

Villasenor focused specifically on the risk of false convictions as a result of the lower burden of proof required to find someone responsible under a university Title IX process. A 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter from the Department of Education instructed schools to use a “preponderance of evidence” or “more likely than not” standard in adjudicating cases, rather than the higher “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal court. “Preponderance of evidence” is used in civil court.

Villasenor described research in which he predicted the number of false convictions of the accused, taking into account that the burden of proof is much lower than in criminal cases. Villasenor is concerned that this different standard could lead to substantially higher wrongful findings of guilt.

Freyd pointed out that there are many instances in which victims seeking justice could be reluctant to pursue a case if the burden of proof is too high.

Both Freyd and Villasenor agreed that before making any substantive changes to the Title IX process, especially concerning burden of proof, more research would have to be conducted and more alternatives evaluated.

Nonetheless, Freyd feels that the conversation is moving forward.

“We are better prepared to have a dialogue than we were five years ago,” she said.


Contact William Dunlop at wjdunlop ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About William Dunlop

William Dunlop is an undeclared major freshman writer for the University/Local beat who really enjoys music and anything associated with it. He calls the many towns of Amador County, California his singular “hometown.” He’s probably in Wilbur Dining criticizing their breakfast music choices, or with the incomparable Stanford band running around somewhere. Contact him at wjdunlop ‘at’ stanford.edu.
  • John Shapiro

    This endless debate about burden of proof is off point – you can lose every dollar you will ever make in a civil case with “preponderance of evidence” – that standard would be OK, if smart competent legal people were administering a system which is inherently fair and provides full due process – none of which is anywhere close to true of campus sexual tribunals, because the Dear Colleague letter also demanded men be given no chance to defend themselves.

  • You’re one of the smartest, most reasonable commentators here. My twitter @gregman2. My contact info is there. Let’s tawk.

  • Michele Dauber has also pushed to have the definition and evidence standards for Stanford to be the same as Dartmouth College, which is the strictest in the nation. Just looking at someone askance and being accused is sufficient evidence for permanent expulsion. The fact that Ivy League investment is so high, this is extremely punitive. It totally favors women at the expense of “white privileged” men.

  • Morris Rochelle

    Steve, you know that’s not true.

  • Joanne Hall

    All the Title IX policy issues at Stanford and Palo Alto Union School District started when the Daubers came to town. They’ve become Title IX experts and consult on it.

  • Joanne Hall

    The D.A. waited until the Oct. 7, 2015 hearing for the two rape charges to be dropped (due to no DNA evidence–tests take hours, not weeks); then March 7th, 2016 files Motions in Limine that prohibit any reference to [excluded] DNA evidence. This is a ticking time bomb for Stanford, if the appeal overturns this case. How is it that Turner’s testimony had to be deemed hearsay? That’s totally rigged. The D.A. had no case absent the MIL. Where was the Press on covering the MIL? Nowhere. Dauber might as well be the MN Publisher. Tracey Kaplan seems to think so. This case is about Public Corruption and Abuse of Power. Our local media is unwilling to face it. Dauber has castrated all institutions that would oppose her.

  • John Shapiro

    I have seen many articles about that in Palo Alto Onilne. What truly puzzles me is, not that the papers have similar views – but that not one media outlet will come out and do an expose story detailing all the lies Dauber has told – there are so many, and they are very low-hanging fruit, they really are – i know journalism is not what it used to be, but it’s not from not being able to put time/money in -because they have been GIVEN all the facts and where to verify them = perhaps Ken Dauber is really powerful at Google and they fear he can harm them? That does sound paranoid but I can’t come up with any better explanation.

  • John Shapiro

    She is a fanatic, and as best I can see the Stanford Admins are mostly in her corner. I am not sure what could be done about it.