The XX Factor

Accused Rapist Found Culpable by Majority of Two Panels Still Plays Stanford Football

Stanford Stadium on Nov. 26 in Palo Alto, California.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

A Stanford University football player accused of sexual assault is set to play in Friday’s Sun Bowl, despite the fact that a majority of two different disciplinary panels at the school ruled that he committed the assault. The New York Times’ Joe Drape and Marc Tracy, who reviewed more than 100 pages of documents from Stanford’s proceedings against the accused assailant, were the first to report on the case.

The alleged victim, who was also a Stanford student at the time of the alleged incident, says she met the player at a frat party and he raped her after they returned to her room. The alleged perpetrator says the sex was consensual. The Times chose not to name either party.

In 2015, in accordance with Stanford’s procedure for sexual-assault adjudication at the time, five panelists (university students and employees) were chosen to consider the woman’s claims. Three of the five determined that, based on the given standard of preponderance of evidence, the man had committed the crime and should face university discipline. But Stanford required four of five panelists to return a verdict against the alleged perpetrator, a system that is friendlier to the accused than those of the vast majority of its peer universities.

Some months later, the alleged victim got another shot at a hearing, which might have gotten her alleged rapist expelled or suspended. After she submitted evidence of flaws in the first hearing, a new panel of five got together to consider the case. Again, they returned a 3–2 verdict against the football player, and again, he got off with no repercussions.

The Times reports that Stanford football coach David Shaw is a member of the NCAA Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence. He told the Times that he knew a “proceeding was happening” with one of his players but claims he doesn’t know the violation the player has been accused of committing. Shaw “saw no reason to suspend [the player] from the team without more information,” the Times reports.

While the football team member plays the Sun Bowl, the woman who filed her assault claim with the university in lieu of launching a protracted, invasive police investigation is studying at a different school to avoid contact with the man she says raped her. “I realized that I got into this school and deserved to get an education here,” she told the Times. “He was a valued football player, but I had earned my right to be here, too.” When Stanford declined to take action that would have protected her from her alleged assailant, she tried to get a protective order in court. A judge ruled that she couldn’t prove the young man was enough of an immediate threat.

The university has faced widespread criticism for its handling of sexual-assault cases in the wake of Brock Turner’s high-profile conviction in March. In response, Stanford banned hard alcohol on its campus, seemingly agreeing with Turner’s excuse that a culture of partying and hooking up was responsible for his sexual assault of an unconscious woman. Earlier this year, Stanford made it even harder for sexual-assault survivors to find the justice Title IX guarantees them. In February, the school threw out its rule that required a 4–1 verdict from a five-person panel to find a perpetrator responsible. Now, the university convenes three-person panels to hear sexual-assault cases. To enact punishments against the accused, the verdict must be unanimous.