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Students Host Rally Against Stanford’s Sexual Assault Policy

| June 12, 2014
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Leah Francis at rally.

Leah Francis leads a chant at a June 12th protest against Stanford’s policies on sexual assault. (Peter Jon Shuler/KQED)

A crowd gathered this afternoon on the Stanford University campus during a Faculty Senate meeting, as students passed out fliers that said, “#StandWithLeah” and demanding the school change its policy on how it handles sexual assault cases.

The rally happened one day after Stanford announced that it will not expel a student it found responsible for sexual assault, rejecting an appeal from the victim, Leah Francis, who thinks the university treated her alleged assailant too leniently.

“The administration dangerously mishandled my case,” says Francis, who organized today’s rally. “We need punishment that rises to the magnitude of the assault.”

On April 25, a five-person panel unanimously found the student responsible for sexual misconduct through a disciplinary process called the Alternative Review Process. The panel was set up in 2010 to deal with allegations of misconduct relating to sexual assault, sexual harassment, relationship violence and stalking.

Alhough Francis filed a police report in Juneau, Alaska, where she said the attack occurred on Jan. 1, 2014, the case is still being reviewed and charges have not been filed. The action of the university does not reflect one way or another on any potential criminal charges in the case.

“This disciplinary process does not seek to determine whether a crime was committed, but whether the university’s student conduct policies were violated and, if so, what discipline is appropriate,” said Lisa Lapin, associate vice president of university communications at Stanford University, in a written statement.

On May 6, the panel handed down its discipline, suspending the student for five quarters and requiring him to complete 40 hours of community service, as well as a sexual assault education program.

This discipline came too late and was too lenient, according to Francis, who reported the incident to Stanford on Jan. 7. Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor who helped create the Alternative Review Process in 2010, helped draft Francis’s appeal.

“He (the alleged assailant) is responsible for sexual assault through force, but (the panel) determined paradoxically that he is not a threat to the Stanford community,” Dauber says. They came to their decision based on the alleged assailant and victim’s relationship two years prior, she adds.

“They are acting on the erroneous belief that he is only a danger to me,” Francis says. “That belief is outdated. This is a giant step back for Stanford.”

Francis and those at the rally would like to see mandatory expulsion for those found responsible for sexual assaults.

“We are listening,” Greg Boardman, vice provost for student affairs, wrote in a June 6 letter to the community. “Expulsion is currently one of a range of potential outcomes of Stanford’s disciplinary process for cases of forcible sexual assault. A different approach would be to make it the ‘presumptive’ outcome — not meaning that it would be applied to every case automatically, but that it would be the starting point for the consideration of sanctions. We intend to discuss this possible approach further with students and others.”

He also addressed concerns about prevention efforts, due process and better education about sexual assault issues.

Since Francis has become vocal about campus sexual assault issues, she says hundreds of other alleged victims have reached out to her.

“My case is a face to rally behind, to make it real to people,” Francis says. “We are trying to change Stanford’s policies.”

Note: An earlier version of this post had an inaccurate caption for the photo and inaccurately attributed some information to Stanford University.

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