Nothing will get you blackballed from doing business in Silicon Valley like trash-talking Stanford. While individual darling companies may come and go, Stanford is the underpinning of Silicon Valley’s talent machine dating back to the days of Fred Terman.
And so here we are again, with more disturbing details of the school’s lax attitude towards taking on the sexual assault that happens on its campus. And here we are again, seeing major Stanford donors in the tech world apparently without outrage.
The latest story is of a student named Sinead Talley who was sexually assaulted, and went through all the proper channels of reporting it. The assailant was found guilty. And was given what the school called “a very serious sanction.” He was suspended for two quarters to “reflect” and then welcomed back.
From Talley, in her unsuccessful appeal of the decision: “Providing my rapist with a gracious invitation back to Stanford pending a brief period of ‘reflection’ disrespects myself and the moral stature of Stanford as an institution.”
More from the Chronicle’s write up of the story: “Talley is speaking out to accuse the world-renowned university of protecting students who commit sexual assault by downplaying the severity of their behavior and rarely expelling them.
The data appear to back her up: Stanford received reports of 84 campus rapes from 2014 to 2016, according to information the university provided to the U.S. Department of Education, which requires campuses to collect crime statistics under the Clery Act. Stanford told the federal agency it received 33 of the rape reports in 2016 alone.
Yet the university expelled no students for sexual assault in those years. Instead, it arranged for three students to leave voluntarily, including former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner in 2015-16, said spokesman E.J. Miranda. He said two students have been expelled for sexual assault, in 2001-02 and 2006-07.”
Once again a victim has to publicly relive one of the worst things to happen to her for any of this to get any attention at all. And even still there’s almost no one in the Valley who wants to acknowledge that 40% of undergrads becoming victims of sexual misconduct is a serious problem at the school. That there’s no connection between that and inequality in Silicon Valley, bro culture, or our own ugly corner of the #metoo movement that began to be exposed last year.
Here’s what defenders of the school will tell you, because I have had this debate more times than I can count: Stanford is just as bad as its peer schools so this isn’t a “Stanford problem.”
Couple things: Those other schools don’t feed Silicon Valley’s economy, so as a member of the startup community, I’m focused on holding the one that does accountable.
Point two: Since when has Stanford ever been content to be “just as good” as any other school when it comes to academics or how many companies spin out of the school or athletics? Why isn’t creating a safe place for women to go to school something Stanford can also seek to “over-achieve” on?
In Talley’s case, the reason for leniency was that the assailant argued he was too drunk to realize he was committing rape. From the Chronicle: “The student argued in his written statement that he believed Talley had consented.
‘Sadly, I was intoxicated, too, so my judgment was impaired,’ he wrote in his defense. ‘I had no idea that she was in a blackout. … I thought I was having consensual sex.’
The panel wrote: ‘We believe a reasonable, sober person would have recognized (Talley’s) incapacitation, her inability to understand the nature of the sexual situation, and thus her inability to give consent.’
The panel agreed the sexual assault occurred but that the student did not know she was intoxicated and decided that expelling him was ‘not appropriate.’”
Astounding: When a woman is drunk and is raped, it’s used as a reason she’s to blame. When a man is drunk and rapes someone, it’s used as a way of excusing the assault.
Is it Stanford’s belief that given enough alcohol all men will become rapists? If so, perhaps it’s time to revisit some of the rules around alcohol at campus parties…perhaps requiring licensed bartenders who could have licenses revoked for over-serving students?
To say Stanford doesn’t care when it comes to sexual assault isn’t quite true. They appear to care greatly about not inconveniencing those found guilty of it.
Onto today’s questions:
– Sarah Lacy