Inside Stanford’s Victim-Blaming Alcohol Policy

Why sexual assault survivors are calling the university’s policy dangerous.

I was still wearing the laminated red lanyard that identified me as a nerdy freshman (and wearing it with pride) the first time I was warned about rape at Stanford.

When discussing an upcoming party at Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), a big frat on campus, an upperclassman girl explained, “SAE stands for ‘Sexual Assault Expected.’ Don’t go there until you know how to handle your alcohol, frosh.” Then she turned back to her lunchtime conversation in the carpeted dorm room lounge.

I did avoid that party; like many Stanford students, I was a perfectionist and worrier who didn’t drink a drop of liquor until well into my sophomore year. SAE continued to be a place I avoided in the years that followed, after hearing more rumors of non-consensual experiences and the “stripper cage” in the entryway where undergraduate women were encouraged to dance.

In 2014, SAE’s housing was suspended for two years after a Title IX investigation found a “hostile environment for female students in violation of the university’s sexual harassment policy,” due to a pledge event where violent and misogynist “jokes” were told. (One such “joke”? “What do you tell a woman with two black eyes? Nothing, you’ve already told her twice.”) During the course of the event that sparked the investigation, two students were transported to the hospital for dangerous intoxication (one a pledge who drank too much, one a female student who was passed out and potentially roofied). Soon after, the Stanford office of Title IX, which is responsible for investigating sexual assault concerns on campus, opened another investigation into SAE after it found that a student was hounded and harassed by frat members and others who blamed her for reporting the pledge event.

In an editorial for the Stanford Daily, the harassed student said she’d actually never reported the event to the university, and didn’t even want to talk to Title IX staff, because she was “afraid of what would happen if she did.” She eventually chose to participate actively in the investigation conducted by Title IX, saying, “I hope that I can help create a culture where no one lives in fear of telling the truth.”

This is not to say that SAE brothers are all terrible and predatory, or even that they are unique within the Stanford drinking ecosystem. The events of that night and the reactions to it are emblematic of a larger problem on Stanford campus: a mishandling of sexual assault cases and a destructive culture where there is no trust between students and administration.

Indeed, the SAE incident is far from the university’s only disturbing case. Currently, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating Stanford for Title IX violations and for mishandling five separate Title IX cases, more than any other American university.

Recently, the university’s issues with adequately handling and preventing sexual assault gained national attention when Brock Turner raped an unconscious woman. On September 2, Turner was released after only three months in jail for the crime.

Stanford has more sexual violence cases under review than any other American university.

It’s not hard to discern why that particular incident grabbed the public’s attention; the facts of that case are harrowing, and the privilege bold and splashy. (Of course his hometown has the nickname “the Dome,” for its reputation for being absurdly sheltered. Of course his name is “Brock.”)

But there are many Brock Turners at Stanford. And even worse? The administration has no idea how to deal with them.

In the wake of Turner’s sentencing, Stanford released a new policy — not about how to prevent and punish sexual assault on campus, but about restricting hard alcohol in undergraduate possession to containers smaller than 750 ml (essentially banning “fifths”). No other university has ever implemented a similar policy.

Many students are intensely concerned that this untested and unproven policy will actually lead to more dangerous situations and binge drinking. Moreover, they fear that it is symptomatic of the administration’s inability to responsibly address sexual assault — as the policy builds on a troubling history of blaming women who’ve had too much to drink for their sexual assault.

Part 1: The Alcohol Policy

As I found in an investigation for VICE, the policy’s factual basis is thin at best. Although a press release several times refers to the policy as “research-based,” it would be more accurate to call it evidence-adjacent, or simply, as Ralph Castro, head of the Office for Alcohol Policy and Education, calls it, “creative.”

Vice Provost Greg Boardman told the Stanford Daily that the policy came from a group of administrators who consulted with “multiple voices, including undergraduates, RFs, and resident assistants (RAs).” (RFs, or Resident Faculty, live adjacent to student housing and function as close advisors and resources for dorms.) In March, the administration sent out an email encouraging “broad student engagement and input.”

However, a referendum from April showed that 91.5% of students were against a hard alcohol ban, the only clear policy up for discussion at the time. The 2016–2017 student body president and vice president told The Establishment that they were not invited to give input into this new policy, nor were any elected representatives of the student body from 2015–2016, despite requests to be included.

Lilliana Smith, a Stanford RA, athlete, and sorority member, responded to the email sent out in March, but received a response “saying they were too busy to talk to me.” After the new policy was announced, Castro commented to the Daily, “We’re not necessarily looking at popularity, but rather functionality.”

The few students who were able to participate in the conversation found it severely lacking. After Smith finally found her way into one presentation on proposed policy points, she “was, frankly, pretty appalled at some of what I heard,” calling it “largely a failed exercise” that focused mostly, and counterproductively, on encouraging students to engage in activities that didn’t involve any alcohol. Another student wrote a blog post about being one of two undergraduate students on a panel to review a different version of the proposal; both students voted against it.

The policy reflects a deeply entrenched disconnect between students and administration.

The new rules are a marked departure from the previous “open door policy” that encouraged students to build open communication with their RAs while following state and local laws, and a tonal shift from the language of trust and community used by Castro in the Stanford Daily only last year. At that point, he said, “Our intention is to build community in residences that encourage responsible behavior among peers.”

According to an email sent from Boardman to all undergraduate students announcing the new policy, it’s aimed at decreasing “high-risk drinking” (aka, binge drinking and subsequent “transports,” or ambulance trips to the hospital). But many students I talked to expressed their fear that the policy would do exactly the opposite.

As a two-time RA who wished to remain anonymous said, “We’re endowed with a huge amount of responsibility to guide young adults at a time of huge change and social pressure. They’re looking for role models. And once you relabel an RA as the police rather than as support staff, you’re jeopardizing the RA’s bond with residents.”

The several dozen current undergraduates and recent alumni who commented for this story were all concerned that this new policy will decrease a sense of community and encourage secrecy. Sam Corrao Clanon (Stanford ’13, former RA, former Greek Life member) noted, “The cases I had in which students were in danger because of alcohol were those instances in which they were drinking in secret. Obviously, this policy dramatically increases their incentive to do so.”

One anonymous student emphasized this as well, saying, “As a former RA for both all-freshman and Greek residences, I feel like the new alcohol policy, put simply, reflects a deeply entrenched disconnect and lack of communication between students and administration. Transports happen because of pregaming [high-volume drinking before leaving for a party].”

In fact, some students I spoke to underscored that transports were increasing not because of parties, but because administrators have been cracking down on all-campus parties and open houses. As one anonymous student explained, this prompted freshmen to “stay in and keep drinking because there was nothing to go to. Transports soared, and RAs kept bringing this up but were given no support or validation from the administration.”

Although The Establishment requested information on transport numbers and data from both the Stanford PR office and the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education (OAPE) on August 25, none were provided. In response to student concerns about who will be asked to enforce the new policy and how this could erode trust between RAs and their charges, Castro said simply, “I’m not going to speak to ResEd[‘s actions].” Lisa Lapin, VP of University Communications, noted, “I am not an RA or RF [Resident Faculty] and cannot speculate,” adding, “Everyone on campus will be expected to enforce.”

When asked what kind of alcohol policy students would prefer, the respondents I spoke with wished for a stronger focus on student health. Lilliana Smith noted that Stanford’s culture of excellence:

“creates a student body that’s constantly stressed (and therefore looking to let loose and blow off steam), sleep-deprived (which we know affects decision-making and overall health), and struggling to build and maintain relationships due to a lack of time and abundance of coursework and commitments . . . True innovation from Stanford would have been identifying its students’ clear need of support for their social development.”

Another anonymous Stanford student agreed:

“The drinking culture of Stanford highly celebrates the loss of memory, intense party/forget all your feelings experience, as the pressure of the campus environment gets to its students . . . there’s most definitely an intensity with which the culture is seeped in, which I don’t believe will go away just by changing the kind of alcohol consumed . . . Stanford students binge drink to deal with their feelings regardless of the kind of alcohol because they’re not given the spaces to become emotionally healthy adults.”

There is, indeed, intense pressure at Stanford to succeed academically and socially. One anonymous student noted that they had searched for campus resources when they realized their own drinking problem; finding none, they ended up attending AA meetings off-campus. The new restrictions, they noted, would have discouraged them even further from asking for help.

Stanford students aren’t asking for an absurdly permissive alcohol policy; they’re asking for one that addresses their actual needs. More importantly, they’re asking for a policy that doesn’t tap into the administration’s dangerous attitudes toward sexual assault.

Part 2: Alcohol Policy, The Administration, And Sexual Assault

Although the administration has repeatedly denied that this new policy is in response to the recent embarrassing Brock Turner-related publicity, most of the students I spoke with described it as a misguided attempt to address sexual assault, a sentiment echoed in the press.

Caitlin Karasik, ’15, noted, “If Stanford’s new alcohol policy isn’t a response to the Brock Turner scandal, it’s at the very least tone-deaf about its relationship to sexual assault on campus.” She added, in a reference to Turner’s defense statement, “The administration seems to be reasoning that sexual assault is a symptom of party culture, not rape culture.”

Lisa Lapin wrote me, “This has nothing to do with Brock Turner. The student committee began its work in October 2015 and the President and Provost sent a letter to students about this issue in March 2016.” She also linked to that critical blog written by a student who sat on a panel, clarifying that “it makes clear that the process began long ago.”

However, as evidenced by a timeline of articles from The Palo Alto Daily, there were several publicized incidents of sexual assault at Stanford, as well as protests against it, dating back to at least June 2014. For example, in June 2014, an undergraduate named Leah Francis criticized the administration in a series of well-attended protests for taking more than twice the federally recommended 60 days to investigate her attack. Francis and the group “Stand With Leah,” dedicated to changing how survivors of sexual assault at the university are treated, also took issue with her attacker’s punishment: Found responsible for sexual assault by the university, he was handed a five-quarter suspension — that would start after graduation (plus 40 hours of community service and sexual assault education). He was allowed to return to Stanford to complete his master’s degree after what has been described as a “gap year.”

So despite Lapin’s comments, it’s clear that Stanford was well aware of the sexual assault problem on campus long before the alcohol policy was drafted.

It’s important to clarify here that most student anger is directed at higher administration in particular. Stanford has a lot of love for its residential education system. Several students, as well as an anonymous RF, told me how many RFs fought “for their residents” against this new policy. Faculty (most notably Stanford Law professor Michele Dauber) have also been outspoken against it, as well as about the need for sexual assault policy reform.

It’s clear that Stanford was well aware of the sexual assault problem on campus long before the alcohol policy was drafted.

What students are angry about is the administration’s repeated denial of the alcohol policy’s basis in a desire to curb sexual assault — as well as a general inability and unwillingness to address the actual issues underlying the school’s sexual abuse problem. Campus activists fighting for the rights of sexual assault victims especially feel the sting of the administration spending time and money on this new alcohol policy, rather than meaningfully responding to their efforts to prevent sexual assault.

Lilliana Smith helped organize the widely-covered protest of the 2016 graduation ceremony to bring attention to sexual assault cases, and has been involved with Stand With Leah. She said:

“This is a slap in the face to all of the work, both internally and externally, that all of us have put into combating the realities around this at Stanford . . . At this point, all of us who have been trying to work on this and support cultural change for so long are just more frustrated and feel more pushed aside than ever before.”

Amanda Lorei is another campus activist who created a petition for Stanford to release the names of student offenders who Stanford itself has found responsible for sexual assault. She echoed Lilliana, emailing that:

“After Stanford’s complete failure to enact meaningful change to its sexual assault policies, this alcohol policy feels like a slap in the face . . . To me, this policy shows that Stanford has the resources to enact sweeping reforms, but that preventing sexual assault and addressing the needs of survivors is simply not a priority for them.”

Student body leadership agrees. I spoke with John-Lancaster Finley and Brandon Hill, the outgoing president and vice president of the ASSU (Associated Students of Stanford University; the student body). Brandon noted, “No one that I know is fooled that a hard liquor ban is the panacea for a cancer we all know to be beyond simple band-aid solutions.”

His statement was met with agreement by the incoming ASSU president, vice president, and executive chief of staff for 2016–2017, who emailed me a collective statement. They noted the victim-blaming that many I talked to saw in the new policy. “When we ask to be heard and respected, we do so with humility and a desire to affect meaningful change. And when a policy like this emerges, it feels like our perspectives are being dismissed . . . No matter if a person chooses to drink, they are never the person who makes the choice to be assaulted.”

When told that the administration denies any link between the policy and sexual assault, an anonymous Title IX plaintiff reminded me, “Perception is reality.” And the perception, clearly, is that the university is responding to sexual assault problems by releasing a new, restrictive, badly-researched alcohol policy. The perception is that the university doesn’t listen to students and doesn’t listen to research. The perception is that the higher levels of university administration have constantly reacted in a troubling and dismissive manner in response to concerns about sexual assault policy, and are only interested in covering Stanford’s Big University Butt.

The Stanford campus
The Stanford campus

Oh, and? There is a paper trail documenting the administration’s hopes that a new alcohol policy would affect sexual assault rates on campus.

When the new alcohol policy was released, media members also noted a page on Stanford’s OAPE website called “Female Bodies and Alcohol.” The page has since been modified and then deleted, but the original is archived here.

The page was criticized for tying drinking to a likelihood of being sexually assaulted, and was widely interpreted as victim-blaming. In a section about “sexual intent and aggression,” the page noted that “women who are seen drinking alcohol are perceived to be more sexually available than they may actually be” and “an intoxicated individual may be making a choice that they could regret in the morning.” The page came from a Cornell site on alcohol education that was updated several years ago to include less sexist and more inclusive language.

As the ASSU executives wrote me, “Women should not have to supervise ‘female bodies’ to prevent sexual violence. And even more, ‘female bodies’ are not solely impacted by sexual violence at Stanford.”

When asked for a comment on the page’s victim-blaming and non-inclusive language, and how it came to be on Stanford’s site, Lisa Lapin responded, “The web administrator for that office is no longer there. I cannot answer.” She also noted, “It was posted for years with no concerns raised until activists criiticism [sic] this week.”

Soon after an article was written about the page, the section quoted above was deleted. Lapin denied that the page had been altered when speaking to The Guardian.

When a staff member at OAPE was asked about the page last week, he refused to comment. At the end of the call, he sighed, “It’s been a long week.”

The deletion of that part of the page — including the line about women being perceived as more available when drinking — implies the administration knew the connections between their policy and sexual assault. Indeed, the page was later changed to explain more generalized information about “alcohol metabolism,” with a brief apology up top.

The official Stanford response to valid criticisms of and questions about this page make it clear why students have such little faith in the administration’s dedication to truly understanding and responding to sexual assault problems on campus. As Sasha Perigo, Computer Science ’17, noted, “the fact that this page was present on the OAPE website shows that Stanford still has a long way to go in its thinking about the relationship between masculinity, alcohol, and sexual assault.”

It’s clear why students have such little faith in the administration’s dedication to truly understanding sexual assault problems on campus.

And there’s more. The email sent by Provost John Etchemendy and President John Hennessy in March threatening an all-out ban of hard alcohol read, in part, “Alcohol . . . is implicated in a variety of problems that continue to be present in the Stanford community. These include alcohol poisoning, sexual assault and relationship violence, organizational conduct problems, and academic problems.”

The incoming student body leaders noted the email’s “so-called connection between alcohol consumption and sexual violence,” and firmly disavowed the policy, saying:

“We believe that this supposed connection is unfounded, inappropriate, and implicitly diminishes the harm felt by survivors while excusing the acts committed by those found responsible for sex-based offenses in cases involving alcohol.”

After that same email in March, Jonathan Fisk, ’16, wrote to Provost Etchemendy and President Hennessy to take them up on their offer for feedback. He suggested some alternatives to a total drinking ban. In his response, Etchemendy noted that “sexual assault rates are highest among freshmen, second highest among sophomores.”

Quick to point out the danger in this kind of link, Fisk wrote back, “And as for the sexual assault issue, I understand that alcohol plays a role in a large portion of cases, but we should take the blaming away from survivors.”

Etchemendy responded, “And I don’t know where you see this as blaming survivors of assault. You’ve presumably heard of the scary path. The university put a chain and sign to discourage people from using it. Was this blaming assault victims?”

Etchemendy did not respond further to Fisk’s concerns about sexual assault. He did say in a November 2015 press release, attempting to counter the claims of administrative laxity toward sexual assault, that “the sanction of expulsion is always a possibility.” But according to The Hunting Ground, a 2015 documentary on sexual assault on college campuses, over 250 sexual assaults were reported at Stanford between 1996 and 2013 — and until Brock Turner was banned from campus, only one resulted in expulsion.

Multiple other communications between the administration and parents or students provide further proof of this belief that alcohol intake is in some part responsible for sexual assault. A letter to Stanford parents from OAPE head Castro and Vice Provost Boardman in June 2016 noted that “incidents involving regretted sexual encounters, sexual misconduct, sexual assault and violations of campus community standards often involve excessive alcohol use.”

In a feature on stopping sexual assault in the Stanford Alumni Magazine in February 2015, Boardman relays this anecdote:

“During NSO [New Student Orientation], the parents of young men were concerned that their son would meet ‘the wrong person.’ So they were basically telling their sons, ‘Don’t. Don’t engage in anything of any sort, especially if you’ve been drinking.’ I concur. That’s good advice.”

And who is the “wrong person” who could accuse their son of sexual assault? The feature leaves the interpretation of that to the reader.

Michele Dauber, Stanford Law professor, has been very involved in fighting sexual assault at Stanford. She told The Establishment:

“I’ve had this exact conversation many times with many of the people who are involved directly in addressing sexual assault in the upper administration. They hold views about alcohol and the role of alcohol and the way it operates in this context that are very troubling to me. For example, I have heard these people — my whole class heard these people — refer to sexual assault as a ‘miscommunication.’”

Since 2014, students and faculty have been involved in a focused fight for Stanford to change its policies on investigating and adjudicating sexual assault. (For more information, see the timeline below of Stanford protests and press releases, as well as a collection of the reporting of Elena Kadvany at the Palo Alto Weekly.)

This fight has involved protests, a contested Climate Survey conducted by the administration, a recommendation for a new Climate Survey from faculty who disagreed with the methodology, students who accused the administration of “cherry-picked” data and “intentional down-playing” of assault on campus, and an investigation from the Office for Civil Rights (those five Title IX cases).

A Task Force convened in 2014 recommended in 2015 that the university should set expulsion as the expected sanction for a student found to have committed sexual assault. Meanwhile, the State of California has introduced a measure to make prison time mandatory for individuals found guilty of “sexually assaulting a person who is unconscious or too intoxicated to consent.” The state bureaucracy is moving faster and more efficiently to combat sexual assault than Stanford, the Harvard of the West, where only two students have ever been actually expelled for committing sexual assault. (Don’t worry, one is Brock Turner.)

Policies, numbers, and percentages about sexual assault on college campuses are fairly well-known at this point. In 2014, President Obama created the first White House Task Force to study and combat the problem. But it’s one thing to hear facts and figures — and another to hear the lived experiences of the victims and survivors of sexual assault.

Part 3: Survivor Narratives

When I posted on Facebook asking for students who had dealt with sexual assault and the administration to talk to me about their experiences, I expected a few people to reach out. Within 24 hours, my email inbox was full of women talking about what happened to them and how they were treated by administration. Two or three stories per hour poured in, with multiple paragraphs per email — by the end of the day, I had over 30 pages of single-spaced testimony. Undergraduates, graduate students, recent alumni, and even a student from 40 years ago reached out to speak about their “horrendous experiences” at Stanford involving sexual assault.

It was devastating to realize that so many of my friends, dorm-mates, and teammates, students I saw every day when I was so, so happy at Stanford, had dealt with dark and terrible things in a place where I felt completely safe. It was enraging to read about their treatment by the administration.

It was devastating to realize that so many of my friends had dealt with dark and terrible things in a place where I felt completely safe.

One recent alumna who was sexually assaulted her sophomore year felt that the way she was treated was “completely isolating.” She spoke to a counselor at CAPS (Counseling And Psychological Services) about her trauma and how it was affecting her — and in violation of HIPAA, the counselor called her Residence Dean and RA and told them what the student had confided in her. She told me, “How is this acceptable? No one should know the details of my sexual assault that I tell to a therapist in confidence. They weren’t even sorry. ”

The new policy, she noted, would have hit her hard as a student. “I drank hard alcohol the night I was assaulted. You’re telling me it’s my fault for drinking hard alcohol. That’s how it makes people feel.” She noted, “There’s already enough shame [around assault experiences].”

It’s not just students who experienced assault involving alcohol who are negatively affected by this new policy. One student who called the new policy “frustrating and painful” told me that neither she nor her assailant had been drinking the night of her assault. She said, “This policy would not have helped me in the slightest. Stanford could have helped me by expelling the student who raped me. “

Other women spoke about the lack of support at Stanford for victims of assault, separate from any alcohol policy at all. “I worried that reporting would jeopardize my standing with the department,” said one woman assaulted at a department mixer. “I worried I wouldn’t be believed.”

I spoke with two Title IX complainants, who both emphasized that they had to fight for Stanford to protect them from their attackers. One noted, “The onus was on me, the survivor, to call Stanford repeatedly . . . It’s not that Stanford is in the dark. They know.”

Both wanted to underscore that alcohol is not the cause of sexual assault: The fault always lies with the perpetrator. One noted, “If someone is a rapist, they’re not going to be stopped by the university taking away our shots and mixed drinks . . . Sexual predators will still take advantage of people, regardless of what means they’re using to manipulate their ability to consent. “

The case of Brock Turner brought new attention to Stanford’s sexual assault policies.

It’s not asking for too much, one complainant noted, to ask the Stanford administration for “something as small as not victim-blaming. Something as simple as saying, we believe you.” In June, over 160,000 people signed an open letter asking Stanford to apologize to Brock Turner’s victim, at the very least. Instead, the official Stanford press release on Brock Turner began, “Stanford University did everything within its power to assure that justice was served in this case.”

When asked how the new policy will interact with and affect victims of sexual violence on campus, a program coordinator at SARA (Office of Sexual Assault & Relationship Abuse Education & Response) would not comment.

According to the survivors themselves, Stanford administration isn’t willing to listen to the victims of sexual assault on campus, to make victims feel safe, protected, and a part of the process.

It seems to survivors that the only people the administration will listen to are those who they can’t get away with ignoring.

Part 4: The Future

The manner in which Stanford administration has dealt with sexual assault and student protest, as well as the manner in which administration has refused to acknowledge valid criticisms of the new alcohol policy, need to be addressed. As an anonymous RF told me, “This [alcohol policy] is taking the conversation away from all the work the students have actually done to combat rape culture on campus. It’s distracting from the big conversations we could be having in our dorm.”

Several students told me they were hopeful that the publicity and pressure on Stanford at this moment would lead to bigger changes and more weight given to student input. There is some hope that things will begin to change, not least because we will have a new president, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, next year.

An open letter to Tessier-Lavigne in The Stanford Daily asked him to address the issues of racial and gender diversity at Stanford, as well as noting the student demand to address sexual assault. The letter noted hope that he would do so, while gently criticizing the fact that “for 125 years, Stanford has been led by straight, white men” (like Tessier-Lavigne). It will be part of the new president’s job to appoint a new provost. Many on campus hope that the new provost will break that long streak of homogenous leadership at Stanford.

Last week, Stanford put out a press release about Lauren Schoenthaler and her newly created position as senior associate vice provost for institutional equity and access. She will oversee several of Stanford’s offices involved in dealing with sexual assault on campus, including the Title IX office and SARA office.

In the press release, Schoenthaler wrote, “I want to continue to partner with students because I think the best way to change student culture around consent norms is through students themselves. Fundamentally, I want to keep the conversation going about what constitutes unwanted conduct and what consent looks like.” She also addressed the new alcohol policy, saying, “We need to be clear that alcohol is never an excuse for sexual assault.”

These are hopeful words. But several students noted to me that they are wary of what actions the new administrative members will actually follow through on, and suspicious that their concerns are only being addressed verbally after such a large outcry and bad publicity for Stanford.

Students are wary of what actions the new administrative members will actually follow through on.

The new ASSU executive board ran on a platform focused on sexual assault reform. Many undergraduates were much more confident in their fellow students’ plans. One Title IX plaintiff said, “I think the programs that the new ASSU pres/vp are trying to instate will actually have an impact.” There are several new student-initiated programs aimed at sexual assault prevention and redress, funded by the university, that will go into effect this year through the SARA office. A press release about one of the programs popped up on August 15, two weeks before Brock Turner’s release from jail.

It’s also worth noting that the Confidential Support Team, a team of confidential counselors providing support for survivors of sexual assault, were described by one Title IX complainant as “extremely supportive,” clarifying that “it’s the process” that’s so dysfunctional.

Stanford is the place where I learned to talk about issues of consent, sexual assault, and gender-based violence from the discussions I had with peers and student activists on campus. It’s where I stopped thinking of myself as someone who sought male approval, and began thinking of myself as someone who approved of myself. The Stanford community and undergraduate experience can be wonderful, rewarding, safe, special, extraordinary — and it should be that way for all students.

It’s depressing and demoralizing that the best we have to offer victims of assault on campus currently is a badly researched alcohol policy, a federal investigation into the school’s Title IX failures — and the potentially futile hope that some new administrators will, finally, do their job.

If you or someone who know has experienced sexual assault, please reach out for help. Some resources include RAINN (the National Sexual Assault Hotline), and the Clery Center, which works with colleges to create “safer spaces.” Stanford-specific resources are outlined here.

The Stanford Confidential Support Team is reachable at 650–736–6933 (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. M-F) or 650–725–9955 (24/7 urgent), or at

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