We Must Do Better

Stanford University where I spent the best two years of life thus far has been making headlines, in the worst possible way. Stories of sexual assault and sexual harassment, stories that range from gut wrenching to down right absurd, from Brock Turner’s case to Evan Spiegel’s misogynistic emails from his fraternity days.

What I am contemplating is how we have let these things happen at a place like Stanford, how are we letting them happen still, and how do we stop them from happening again. I am not naive, I do not believe that all humans are good or that Stanford can somehow be a sacred place where no evil enters. But there are common threads in the stories being told: fraternity culture, excessive drinking, peer pressure, objectification of women and something much more insidious — a delusional disregard for consequences.

None of these things are an excuse for a sick mind and we cannot hold Stanford responsible for the actions of depraved individuals. But when it comes to creating a better, safer community, we are all responsible. Students, alumni, faculty, and administrators. We must do better by each other, and by the loving parents who release their children into what they see as a safe and nurturing environment. We cannot dismiss each story as an isolated case. There are systemic failures with detectable patterns and precursors. Fixing those is our responsibility.

For all we know for every story that makes the headlines, there may be five or ten that stay in the shadows. That’s five people suffering in silence, five bright futures that may not get realized, five families that may not ever fully recover. There is no relative measure here, there cannot be “fewer” incidents. The only acceptable outcome is an absolute one. We must protect, educate, and moderate each other so we can ensure that every single student who comes to Stanford can thrive and flourish. One instance of assault is one too many.