Stanford University has been a trending topic in the news lately, and this time, it’s not for something good. Ex-Stanford student and varsity athlete Brock Allen Turner was recently sentenced to six months in county jail and probation for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman on Stanford campus in January of 2015.
As a current Stanford student, I have read a flurry of Facebook posts written by my classmates and friends over the past five days condemning the criminal justice system for not giving Turner a harsher punishment. Judge Aaron Perksy’s decision to sentence Turner to 6 months in county jail out of the possible 14 years in prison was based on the fact that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” and that Judge Perksy does not believe Turner will be a danger to others. Source.
I was touched by the posts my peers wrote and shared on social media, many of them focusing primarily on the failures of the criminal justice system to hold perpetrators of sexual assault appropriately accountable for their crimes. But I wanted to know what Stanford students want the world to know about where we fall into all of this. Would they stand in defense of Stanford? Would they say that Stanford is to blame?
What do Stanford students want the world to know about where we fall into all of this?
I reached out to my friends on Facebook and blasted the Stanford Women’s Community Center email list seeking everybody’s thoughts, and the following post is a compilation of all the responses I received.
NOTE: Though some students chose to use the plural pronoun “we” in their statements, no one individual’s opinion can serve as a full, comprehensive reflection of the perspectives of the entire student body. That being said, each of the following statements is ultimately a reflection of one individual’s own personal beliefs, and cannot and should not be understood as a statement on behalf of all Stanford students, nor Stanford University as an institution.
DISCLAIMER: Each of the following statements is a reflection of one individual’s own personal beliefs, and CANNOT and SHOULD NOT be understood as a statement on behalf of all Stanford students, nor Stanford University as an institution.
Did you read that? Here it is one more time in Comic Sans and rainbow typeface just in case you missed it:
Got it? Good. Now that that’s all squared away…
This is what the students of Stanford University want the world to know about Stanford right now.
Cameron Miller, Senior
Stanford Men’s Cross Country Athlete
“I want the world to know that the Stanford community abhors violence of any kind–but especially that against women. I want the world to know that, while we must respect the jury’s verdict and the judge’s sentence in the case against Brock Turner, we must push back against the shaky reasoning behind his six-month sentence. Judge Persky spoke of the ‘severe impact’ a long prison sentence would have on Mr. Turner; perhaps Mr. Turner should have the considered the ‘severe impact’ his actions would have on the victim before the assaulted her. Maybe Judge Persky should have more carefully reflected on the victim’s statement in open court. Above all, I want to the world to know Stanford, despite episodes of sexual violence that are (unfortunately) far too common on college campuses, works diligently to ensure that its campus environment is safe, secure and conducive to learning.”
Above all, I want to the world to know Stanford … works diligently to ensure that its campus environment is safe, secure and conducive to learning.
Danielle Limacoco, Freshman
“We’re outraged. We don’t care that he’s a swimmer, athlete, or even past student in this school. We know that he committed rape, and are even more disgusted that he couldn’t own up to his crime. And 6 months?! By the time we finish our fall and winter quarters he’ll be out, back in society. It’s insulting to think that people view this as ‘justice.’
“We’re also revolted by any support we see on social media. We’re against Facebook Pages like ‘Brock Turner for 2016 Olympics‘ that glorify Turner for his swimming times and demean the survivor as a guilty party girl, or other comments of the like bashing on the victim. There is no support for him in the Stanford community. We are ashamed that he came here, outraged that it occurred in our campus, and hope that future changes in regards to the way consent is taught are instigated.”
We are ashamed that he came here.
Lauren Norheim, Sophomore
Stanford Women’s Water Polo Athlete
“I can really only explain the Brock Turner case as one of pure heartbreak. I am heartbroken for the victim who was stripped of her dignity because of that night and her life was forever changed because of Brock’s actions. I am heartbroken because I cannot even begin to fathom what she is going through and the trauma she must face for the rest of her life. I am heartbroken that she along with many others feel Brock’s sentencing does not do the situation justice. I am heartbroken that I did not tell Brock to go home that night when I said ‘hi’ to him and saw how drunk he was. I am heartbroken for the anger and hatred towards Brock and his family and the response of some people to want to bring him down and make his life miserable.
I am heartbroken that I did not tell Brock to go home that night when I said ‘hi’ to him and saw how drunk he was.
“I pray that Stanford can move forward from this situation with intentions of empathy and love, not that of vengeance. The court system made its decision based off far more information than I will ever have, and I feel that I must accept the decision that has been made and focus my attention on helping future victims rather than more incarceration and slander for past assaulters. All that I ask of Stanford students, that whatever their position is on the matter, that they will check their intentions and make sure they are not rooted in anger. ‘Justice is not served in vengeance.'”
I pray that Stanford can move forward from this situation with intentions of empathy and love, not that of vengeance.
Ibrahim Bharmal, Sophomore
Sophomore Class President
“We are both overwhelmingly heartbroken and seething with anger. We stand in full solidarity with the Stanford survivor, whose courage to speak out against someone who we regretfully and shamefully say was part of our community, moved many of us to tears. We offer our sincerest and deepest apologies for the unimaginable hurt caused in a place we call our home. Though justice remains unserved, we hope that the ‘lighthouse’ remains unshakably bright. We, and so many others, stand with you.”
Ben Taylor, Sophomore
“I think the University as a whole did a good job with Turner’s case. They kicked him off and banned him from setting foot on campus, and quickly turned it over to the local judicial system. The justice system of Santa Clara County, and Judge Aaron Persky in particular, failed here. The University could definitely do more with sexual assault, but this is a step forward. I think it’s slightly ironic that ‘Stanford University’ is trending, instead of ‘Brock Turner’ or anything else. And the media should start emphasizing that he is no longer a student, but anything with Stanford in the title makes it more click-worthy (which is simultaneously a blessing and a curse).”
Matthew Baiza, Sophomore
Co-Founder of The Stanford Association of Students for Sexual Assault Prevention
“I think the outcome of this case is a moment for the Stanford community and the nation to realize that sexual assault is real and it is going to remain a real problem until we choose to stop accepting it as an inconvenient reality. Is Stanford worse than anywhere else? Likely not. But what Stanford has taught me, and has taught so many generations before and after me, is that we have an obligation to address the problems we see in the world. Stanford wants us to change the world for the better but when we try to change our world here at school, we get a different story that we are wrong in trying to bring about necessary change.
What Stanford has taught me is that we have an obligation to address the problems we see in the world.
“This moment is a chance for the Stanford community to make deep and lasting change on our campus. It’s a chance for us to believe survivors, not shame them into hiding their experiences. We should not scapegoat sexual assault by attributing violent actions to the ‘dangers of alcohol’. It’s a chance for us to fight for what is right, not push away the problems we face. We should not minimize the trauma a survivor experiences by shifting the focus away from the survivor and towards the effects that consequences may have on a perpetrator. It’s a chance for Stanford to set an example by showing the world what it really means to fight for the support and dignity of survivors. If we cannot do that much, if after all the survivor has gone through, if after reading her letter we are not prepared to make lasting change to the narrative of sexual assault and eradicate the rape culture of our society, then we are not the dream school and innovative institution that Stanford is made out to be.
If after all the survivor has gone through … we are not prepared to make lasting change to the narrative of sexual assault and eradicate the rape culture of our society, then we are not the dream school and innovative institution that Stanford is made out to be.
“I want the world to know that rape culture is unacceptable and as seen by the amount of support our community has shown towards the survivor, I believe our community is ready to change the culture of rape on our campus.”
“I have been struggling with deciding to share the girl’s letter. Back in fall quarter, there were a bunch of times where I was blackout drunk and apparently, I ended up grabbing a couple of girls’ butts. But then I stopped drinking midway through fall quarter and all my problems with girls went away. It’s hard after you read a letter like the one the victim wrote in that case to forgive yourself. To know that, while you did not rape, you still assaulted/misconducted with someone. I just don’t want to appear like a hypocrite to people as it is a fairly wide-spread fact. While being blacked out was no excuse to do what I did, it’s hard knowing that I literally had no control over what I was doing and remember nothing from those nights.”
Lily Zheng, Junior
“Stanford is doing the best it can with Brock Turner’s individual case. Regarding sexual assault, on the other hand, the university is in an incredibly messy situation trying to satisfy different parties involved to address sexual assault. Top-down policies from the administration have tended to be fear-based programming teaching students not to rape, that rape is illegal and that Stanford does not condone it — it covers Stanford’s bases, but doesn’t make any attempts to effectively change the culture on campus. The mainstream anti-sexual assault activists on campus tend to focus their efforts around aiding survivors and pushing for harsher (punitive) measures against rapists. These are reactionary attempts, and while helping survivors is good it doesn’t actually change the culture on campus either.”
While helping survivors is good, it doesn’t actually change the culture on campus either.
Kinsey Morrison, Sophomore
“This week, Stanford is proving why Brock Turner never deserved to be here. Our campus’ shared rage and solidarity with a woman we may never know the name of, who he has hurt so deeply with virtually no remorse, prove that he is not us. And yet, he was part of us. People like him still are, and will be, until we recognize that this is not a one-time mistake, one bad kid who slipped through the cracks in our oh-so-selective admissions office, one girl who drank too much and should have known better. This is an extreme manifestation of a pervasive mindset which Stanford is not alone in, but certainly not immune to: that women’s humanity matters less.
Our campus’ shared rage and solidarity with a woman we may never know the name of … prove that he is not us. And yet, he was part of us.
“Right now, Stanford — and the world — is angry. But we cannot just be this angry when a woman is assaulted behind a dumpster and her rapist barely gets slapped on the wrist. We must get angry every single time we see the culture — in others or ourselves — that asks who men are, and what women are. Brock Turner may still be in the dark, but woman who fought so hard to be a light has woken me up.”
Sierra Killian, Sophomore
I made it until the last few lines of the victim’s statement before the tears started. I know I am a strong woman, but my strength and that of other women should never be tested by assailants, by the legal system, by injustice. Reading the affirmation that I am important, beautiful, valued, and respected from an anonymous woman who has experienced so much pain reminded me how infrequently women receive that message from society at large. I am with women everywhere in this fight, but I am so frustrated that there is a fight at all.
Madeleine Rowell, Sophomore
Unfortunately, I think I was one of the few Stanford students left unsurprised by the turnout of Brock Turner’s sentence since I’ve heard so many versions of the story told by Stanford students. I want people to know that what the survivor in Brock Turner’s case was forced to endure was very similar to what Stanford students have to go through, except students who are raped here are still expected to go to school and live where they had been raped, with their rapists.
I want people to know that what the survivor in Brock Turner’s case was forced to endure was very similar to what Stanford students have to go through…
Regarding how Stanford students reacted to the article, it was two-fold. For many, I’m sure it was a wake-up call. I think many people dismiss rape culture still being an issue because most people would agree that rape is objectively morally bad, but things aren’t quite black and white like that most of the time. People are quicker to defend perpetrators than you think and rape isn’t always as violent as people imagine. I’ve heard stories of people flat-out lying during investigative processes to help their friends. On the other hand, some people on campus already know the injustices of our legal system all too well. For us, it was a reminder that justice is rarely served for rapists. A reminder that the racism, classicism, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny that perpetuate rape culture are very much real. A reminder that if you’re raped at Stanford, nobody cares.
For us, it was a reminder that justice is rarely served for rapists. A reminder that the racism, classicism, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny that perpetuate rape culture are very much real. A reminder that if you’re raped at Stanford, nobody cares.
And finally, here is what I want the world to know:
Catherine Goetze, Sophomore
I want the world to know that I, along with so many Stanford students, stand in full solidarity with the survivor of Brock Turner’s crime. There is no doubt that on campus the prevailing sentiment towards the ex-Cardinal is one of extreme disdain. Moreover, I feel proud, honored, and safe to attend a university where so many of my peers have taken it upon themselves to further the conversation surrounding the prevention of these types of heinous crimes.
I hope, too, that in addition to developing resources for survivors of sexual assault, the students and university administrators who are at the forefront of tackling this complex issue seriously consider the ways in which we can take preventative measures to minimize the number of sexual assaults that take place at our home. Namely, by educating students (i.e. potential offenders) on topics including affirmative consent, sexual violence, and gender equity. I believe it’s time to start asking what we can do to prevent this problem in the first place.
Overall, I want the world looking in at Stanford to know that Stanford, just like any other institution, has its faults. But I rest easy at night knowing I live at a school where acts of violence such as Brock Turner’s are so vehemently condemned by the vast majority of the student body, and I feel proud of my peers for the work they are doing to make our school a better place for future saplings to come.
Got thoughts? Please share! Drop a line in the comments section below or get in touch one-on-one.
Big thanks to Austin Wu for editing this piece! 🙂