The U.S Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights are visiting Stanford University this week to talk to students about the school's handling of sexual violence as part of its investigation into several cases filed by students alleging the university violated their rights under federal anti-discrimination law Title IX.
This will be the federal agency's first "formal visit" to interview Stanford students, said university spokeswoman Lisa Lapin. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is currently investigating four separate complaints at Stanford related to sexual assault cases.
The agency is inviting individual students to drop in during open "office hours" on Wednesday, Jan. 18, and Thursday, Jan. 19, from 1:45-2:45 p.m. both days, at the East Asia Library. No appointment is necessary.
Any information shared will be anonymous; the Office for Civil Rights will not record any student's name unless requested, according to Stanford.
"OCR welcomes students to share their experiences, impressions, and ideas," a university description of the office hours reads.
Lapin said Stanford is "fully cooperating with OCR and following their direction.
"We've provided them considerable material and there have been numerous conversations, but this is their first formal visit for interviews," she wrote in an email to the Weekly.
One of the Office for Civil Rights complaints was filed by former student Leah Francis, who has alleged Stanford failed to promptly and equitably provide a response to and resolution for a sexual assault report she filed with the university in 2014. Francis ignited a firestorm of activism and attention to the topic of sexual assault at Stanford when she went public with her case in June 2014.
Two other federal complaints were filed by two female students who said they were sexually assaulted by the same male student. One of those women also filed a lawsuit against Stanford in December, alleging the university violated Title IX and acted negligently by failing to protect her and others from a "known sexual predator on campus."
In September, the Office for Civil Rights "administratively closed" another complaint as a result of a lawsuit the complainant, a former male Stanford student, filed alleging that the university discriminated against him on the basis of sex.
The Office for Civil Rights opened its most recent investigation at Stanford in April, according to a list released by the agency this month.
The Palo Alto Weekly has created a Storify page to capture ongoing coverage of sexual-assault issues at Stanford University. To view it, go to storify.com/paloaltoweekly.