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Stanford University: Reinstate Crystal Riggins

This petition had 1,745 supporters

On January 31st, Stanford University terminated lawyer Crystal Riggins, one of six Stanford-sponsored Title IX attorneys, after she publicly criticized Stanford’s Title IX Process. On December 29th, Riggins was quoted in a New York Times article concerning a previous Stanford Title IX case:

“‘It is frustrating because universities should be getting this right, and they are not, and the idea that they can keep pushing this under the rug doesn’t make the campus any safer, as we keep seeing as these incidents come to light,’ said Crystal Riggins, a lawyer who has represented accusers at Stanford. ‘The process is complex and takes a long time. It is very difficult to get a 3-0 decision from a panel, and these young women are terrified and traumatized and just want it to be done.’”

Citing Riggins’ criticism of Stanford’s Title IX process, Lauren Schoenthaler, Stanford’s previous General Counsel attorney and current Stanford administrator told Riggins via email:

“‘Given your stated lack of confidence… it does not make sense for the university to continue to refer our students to you.’”

According to Stanford’s Title IX policy, students involved in a Title IX investigation are allowed nine free hours of counsel by a university-approved attorney. Riggins, an equity partner at Hoge Fenton, was one of these six university-approved attorneys - and the only one who exclusively represented survivors of sexual assault. Three of the five remaining lawyers on the list exclusively represent alleged perpetrators, and two are criminal defense attorneys who represent accused sex offenders in their private practices but are willing to represent both parties at Stanford.

Riggins’ critique of the process was an acknowledgement of the deficiencies she witnessed while representing victims of sexual assault in the Title IX process. However, Stanford University officials deemed these comments “disappointing” and thus deemed Riggins unsuitable for university sponsorship and payment.

Based on Riggins’ comments that highlighted concerns with the Title IX policy, we believe Stanford inappropriately, and in a retaliatory manner, terminated the relationship with Riggins. By censoring lawyers, Stanford is abridging freedom of speech. As an institution of higher education that encourages diversity of opinion, we the students are also “disappointed” that the university would take such an extreme measure to silence any critique of its policies or actions. However, we are not surprised by these actions based on Stanford’s history of retaliation.

Stanford’s response to this situation has been disingenuous at best. Stanford spokesperson Lisa Lapin told the Stanford Daily that Stanford did not terminate Riggins in retaliation for her comments but because the university had “lost confidence in her ability to represent our students.” But Schoenthaler’s email is very clear that Riggins was terminated as a result of her public comments to the New York Times that were critical of Stanford’s process. Students are not persuaded by Lapin’s “alternative facts.” We believe that rather than being terminated, Riggins should be commended for speaking out in a way that she feels is in the interests of her clients even in the face of retaliation.

Stanford University should not take actions to silence lawyers, both affiliated and not affiliated with the university. Doing so creates a silencing effect on any opinion criticizing university policy. We call for Stanford University to:

Reinstate Riggins as a Stanford-sponsored Title IX attorney, effective immediately.

We demand that Provost Persis Drell and President Marc Tessier Lavigne immediately reinstate Riggins as an approved attorney and continue to recommend her to victims of sexual assault.

We request that Provost Drell meet with Riggins to seriously discuss and address her concerns about the Title IX process, and to work collaboratively with Riggins and all attorneys who represented Stanford students in the process. This is necessary to ensure fairness for all students.

We expect Stanford to respond to these demands and take actions to reinstate Riggins in a timely manner. Retaliation has no place at Stanford University. We expect better.

In Solidarity,
Stanford Association of Students for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP)

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