PALO ALTO -- Stanford University will not expel a student it found to have sexually assaulted a classmate off-campus this year, rejecting the appeal of the victim who said the school had treated him too leniently.
Instead, Stanford will allow the man to complete his senior year but withhold his degree for two years and prevent him from enrolling in a graduate program until 2016, a year longer than the original sanction, Stanford's vice-provost of student affairs wrote in a ruling delivered to the victim, Leah Francis, on Wednesday.
University administrators upheld an earlier decision that the man committed a sexual assault, but wrote that they didn't believe he was a threat to the campus.
"That makes no sense," said Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor who has advocated on Francis's behalf. "A student who is responsible for sexual assault by force is a danger to the Stanford community by definition."
Francis, who -- along with her assailant -- appealed the initial rulings, said the confidential letter left her shocked and numb. It contained a graphic account of the incident that, she said, was painful to read and contained speculation and inaccuracies.
"I just feel the university is trying to crush me right now," she said.
Francis, who agreed to the publication of her name, had asked the university to reconsider sanctions that would allow her assailant to graduate this month. The man had appealed the finding of responsibility, saying he didn't commit an assault. His name has not been revealed.
She said she was shocked to learn in May that Stanford would allow a student it found responsible for sexual assault and sexual misconduct to remain on campus and graduate -- and, in the fall of 2015, return for graduate school, after completing a yearlong suspension from campus.
Dauber said the process dragged on far too long -- more than five months -- exposing implementation challenges as well as gaps in the campus policies she helped to establish.
"I really couldn't be more disappointed with the way this happened," Dauber said, "and it certainly isn't what I had in mind with the drafting of the (review process)."
Francis reported the incident to police in her hometown, she said, but no charges have been filed.
In the past week Stanford students have rallied around Francis, demanding better services for sexual assault victims, expanded education programs for undergraduate students and mandatory expulsion for those found responsible for assault.
Hundreds of men and women appeared at a demonstration last week to support her and bring national attention to the issue with a social media campaign, #StandWithLeah. This summer, a new student-government task force on sexual violence is expected to issue a proposal with similar solutions.
The students have planned another demonstration Thursday before the final Faculty Senate meeting of the year.
Francis and other activists note that Dartmouth now mandates expulsion for the most egregious sexual assault offenses and that last year, Duke made expulsion the starting point for those it finds responsible for sexual assault.
As colleges ramp up their penalties, some of the accused have responded with lawsuits, saying their rights were violated. Unlike criminal convictions, which require proof "beyond a reasonable doubt," campus disciplinary hearings typically find someone responsible of a violation if it is "more likely than not" it occurred.
Stanford is considering making expulsion the default sanction in sexual assault findings, said university spokeswoman Lisa Lapin. In a statement released last week, the administration also said it would seek student recommendations on how to improve sexual assault response and prevention.
"We regret any circumstance in which a student believes a process here at Stanford has not met their expectations," it said. " ... But we are always looking to improve what we do, and we genuinely welcome input from students on how we can do better."
Follow Katy Murphy at Twitter.com/katymurphy.