A Stanford University sexual assault victim, furious that her assailant will be allowed to graduate this month, is demanding tougher sanctions and other changes in university policy, the San Jose Mercury News reports. “Stanford did not expel the man who raped me,” Stanford senior Leah Francis wrote in an open letter that circulated rapidly online. Last week, hundreds of men and women demonstrated to show their support for Francis and call for swifter resolution, stiffer penalties and more support for victims. “This is a historic moment when there is an unprecedented movement for change,” said Benjy Mercer-Golden, a junior who directs the student government’s new Task Force on Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse. “We think where Stanford goes, other universities will follow.”
Francis’ story has thrust Stanford into a national debate over sexual assault complaints involving students and how those found to be responsible by their campuses should be punished. The debate also is bringing a rising counter demand, and lawsuits, for more protection of the rights of students accused of assault. The U.S. Department of Education has named 55 colleges under investigation for their policies, a list that includes prominent schools such as UC Berkeley, Harvard and Dartmouth. Such scrutiny has led more colleges, including Duke and Dartmouth, to penalize campus sex offenders more harshly.