Earlier this month, Stanford University senior Justin Brown published an opinion article in The Stanford Daily claiming that he was sexually assaulted by a female classmate. His account came amid an ongoing debate at Stanford about how best to handle allegations of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. Those who hold that perpetrators of sexual assault escape with too little punishment have rallied around Leah Francis, who protested when a classmate she accused of “forcible rape” was found responsible in a disciplinary process, but permitted to return to campus upon completing “a five-quarter suspension, 40 hours of community service and completion of a sexual assault awareness program.” She declared in an open letter, “Stanford did not expel the man who raped me.”
Emily Bazelon of Slate later reported that from 2005 to 2011, nine Stanford students were found responsible for sexual assault. One was expelled. “The other eight received suspensions ranging from one quarter to eight quarters,” she wrote. “The average sanction for sexual assault at Stanford is a four-quarter suspension.”
At the same time, Stanford has been faulted by a largely different group of critics for offering inadequate due-process to students accused of sexual misconduct. “In 2011, a male student was found guilty of sexual assault and suspended for two years after Stanford determined that his accuser had been intoxicated during a sexual encounter, violating Stanford’s sexual assault policy which states that one cannot consent to sex if ‘intoxicated’ to any degree,” the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reported. The organization objected that the burden of proof needed to find guilt was changed in the middle of that student’s case.
The op-ed that Justin Brown wrote describing an encounter with a female classmate does not fit neatly into either camp. He believes that Stanford has handled his allegation poorly and failed to properly discipline the accused. But he also insists that though she assaulted him, he does not want her expelled or suspended.