Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

On living in fear of telling the truth: My experience with SAE, retaliation and Title IX

We’ve talked a lot about sexual violence on campus this year. We’ve discussed the high rate of assault and harassment and the low rate of reporting. But we haven’t sufficiently acknowledged the prevalence of retaliation against survivors, and how it prevents them from coming forward.

I am not writing about freedom of speech, or whether to discipline people for telling jokes. I am sharing what has happened to me over the past year. I am the student who was subjected to “intimidating and retaliatory conduct” based on a “false belief that [I] had reported Title IX concerns” whose experience was cited by the University in its recent decision regarding SAE. My story is a story of sexual harassment and retaliation against a Title IX witness. And unfortunately, it is a story shared by many people on this campus and beyond.

My story began when I attended SAE’s Roman Bath party last spring. The popular narrative surrounding that party is that SAE got kicked off campus for a few mildly sexist jokes, told at an optional event. Despite the ongoing tensions over that event, the real facts have never been published before.

“What do you tell a woman with two black eyes? Nothing, you’ve already told her twice.”

“What do you call the useless skin around a vagina? A woman.”

“What do a woman’s orgasm and her opinion have in common? No one cares about either.”

Those are among the jokes that were told that night, every single one of which targeted women. Those jokes, and the fact that SAE members cheered on the pledges they forced to tell them, are why I got up and walked out of the event. But — contrary to the false rumors spread by SAE — I did not report what had happened to Stanford, its Title IX coordinator or even my RA, not because I wasn’t upset, but because I was afraid of what would happen if I did.

To date, nearly every story about this event has claimed that SAE lost their house due to these jokes. I don’t take any position on whether it is appropriate to discipline a campus organization purely for offensive speech. But SAE did not lose their house because of the jokes alone. This unproductive dialogue overshadows the true reasons behind the University’s decision and the problematic culture of sexual harassment and assault on this campus.

This is what did happen, according to information I have gathered from other students who were present: Two students (including a member of SAE) went to the hospital that night. As is protocol, Stanford was informed of the hospitalizations. Word spread throughout the Greek community about the disturbing behavior of SAE and the emergency room visits. ASSU and the Inter-Sorority Council presidents sent a joint email to fraternities condemning this type of behavior and asking for change. That is how Stanford found out about Roman Bath — not from any one organization or individual, and not from me.

The Title IX office has the power to initiate investigations on behalf of the University without a complaining witness. They chose to do this for Roman Bath because this was not the first time they had heard of sexual misconduct or harassment at SAE. There had been many allegations of this type of behavior during the past several years, including a few in the previous year alone.

Over the summer, Stanford hired an independent investigator to look into Roman Bath. I was one of many people approached by, and who agreed to talk to, that investigator on a promise of confidentiality. We spoke for about half an hour, and I told her what I had witnessed at the short time I was at the party. Even after the harassment and retaliation I have faced, I do not regret the choice to leave the party or speak to the investigator.

I first learned that I was the target of harassment when I was on spring break in Cabo. I found out that SAE not only knew that I had spoken to the investigator, but also incorrectly believed I had reported them in the first place. They had been propagating this rumor and blaming me for the loss of their house since the beginning of Winter Quarter. They did so despite the fact that they had no knowledge of what I had actually said to the investigator, and that no individual had filed a report in the first place (a fact shared with them by the Title IX office when the decision was released).

While in Cabo, the SAE members (whom I had been avoiding since the party) began to verbally harass me in person, singling me out for mockery and abuse. They made derogatory comments about me behind my back to my friends and peers. They tried to make my name synonymous with tattletale by targeting me on social media platforms, with posts like the one below.

A screenshot from the app Whatsgoodly. (Courtesy of Tess Bloch-Horowitz)

A screenshot from the app Whatsgoodly. (Courtesy of Tess Bloch-Horowitz)

I was the unwitting target of a concerted campaign of group harassment. And I felt a complete, terrifying loss of control, because I didn’t know how to make it stop. Reporting the harassment to the Title IX office didn’t feel like an option. It seemed that doing so would validate the false narrative that I had reported the Roman Bath event in the first place and only serve to increase the attacks. I called my parents, and we decided to contact the investigator to find out how SAE had gotten my name and whether other witnesses were at risk. As an inevitable consequence, the investigator learned of the harassment I was experiencing. She called Catherine Criswell Spear, the Title IX coordinator at Stanford, without my knowledge or consent. Criswell then emailed SAE’s leadership and legal advisor, who reached out to every member of the organization to warn them to stop their behavior. As I had feared, this only increased the harassment.

Feeling unsafe, I cut my vacation short and flew home to New York. I was there with my family for most of spring break, trying to process what was happening to me and to figure out what to do. I’ve never felt as unsafe as I did in Cabo, and as I feel on campus now. I am in constant fear of confrontation by members of SAE, who have continued to spread rumors about me and harass me. I still don’t know how SAE found out I talked to the investigator, or why they think that I’m the one who reported Roman Bath. But even if I had, I would not deserve to be harassed and retaliated against. No one does.

When I returned to campus, I met with Catherine Criswell Spear to discuss my options. I found out that because of how seriously the Title IX office takes retaliation against witnesses, they were going to move forward with an investigation with or without my cooperation or consent. In fact, my case was being rolled into a larger organizational investigation into SAE and whether they had broken their probation.

For the first time in this process, I was given a choice — albeit a small one. I could choose to participate in the investigation, or I could remain silent. I chose to participate.

This was not an easy choice. My only chance to protect myself was to participate in the same Title IX process that had made me a target in the first place. I knew that any decision I made would affect not just me, but the culture surrounding reporting on campus. I am a victim of harassment and retaliation, and this experience has been among the hardest I have ever had to deal with. I cannot imagine what it must be like for victims of violence and assault. Given the retaliation I faced for merely being thought to have reported harassment, I don’t know if I could face actually reporting a case of assault. And I am not willing to become a cautionary tale, an example of the reasons why people shouldn’t report.

Many women, including members of the Greek community, have already come to me to share their stories of sexual assault and their fear of reporting. Despite the efforts that are being made around this issue, no policy changes will be effective unless people feel safe coming forward and reporting what has happened to them. We are not in kindergarten anymore. This is not about someone tattling to her teacher about stolen crayons. This is about people’s lives, education and safety. There is nothing wrong with reporting something as serious as sexual assault or harassment. And no one should be retaliated against for standing up for themselves or for those around them.

Along with SARA and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, I will be leading a working group as a part of the Violence Intervention and Prevention pilot program to foster a culture that condemns retaliation, and supports those who come forward. This group will pursue educational and preventive campaigns against retaliation. We will work to implement systemic changes in how retaliation is handled, because a survivor should not have to go through the process that victimized them in the first place in order to seek justice.

These measures should not and will not include banning Greek life. Despite everything that has happened to me, I have experienced firsthand the positive influence Greek life can have. In fact, I would not be able to share this story without the strong support system that the Greek community has created for me.

There’s a widespread belief that Stanford wants to kick the Greek community off campus. I do not believe this is true, and I can say that based on assurances from multiple sources in the University administration. But this fear contributes to the culture of retaliation. When anyone reports a Greek member or organization, they are perceived to be threatening Greek life as a whole. This belief makes the community turn against the victim in an attempt to protect themselves. Instead, we must start supporting the victims and turning against the perpetrators in order to create the safe, supportive environment that I know we are capable of.

I am not the only reason that Stanford decided to sanction SAE. My case is one of several issues the University investigated regarding the fraternity. But regardless of its origins, the decision to further discipline SAE, including suspending their housing privileges indefinitely, is an opportunity — not an opportunity to debate whether or not to discipline people for telling jokes, but a chance to take a stand against harassment and retaliation.

The University claims in its press release that it “will not tolerate conduct that intimidates students for speaking out when they believe they or others have been wronged.” In that same press release, Stanford acknowledged that it had cautioned SAE at the conclusion of the prior investigation that “any further misconduct could result in additional sanctions, up to and including loss of charter recognition.” SAE was found guilty of further misconduct. I am not necessarily saying that they should have lost their charter; I know there are well-meaning individuals in SAE, and I have personally experienced and appreciate their efforts. But as Stanford acknowledges, these efforts were unsuccessful — and because of that, I have suffered.

Stanford’s decision to allow SAE to keep their charter, despite their knowledge of SAE’s failure to change and their ability to impose that sanction, makes me question how seriously they take retaliation. By not following through, is Stanford telling us that retaliation doesn’t matter enough? Are they telling me that my experience is not important enough? And are they telling future victims that they shouldn’t bother to come forward, because their voices will not be heard?

SAE decided to target me by making my name synonymous with reporting. The irony is that while I was not that person to begin with, their actions have forced me to become someone who is willing to embrace the title, and finally stand up and speak out against them. We need to start asking ourselves why people are being retaliated against for coming forward in the first place — and why we as a community have accepted the underlying atmosphere of sexual harassment, intimidation and misogyny for so long. And I hope that in sharing my story, I can do what Stanford has not. I hope that I can help create a culture where no one lives in fear of telling the truth.

Tess Bloch-Horowitz ‘17

Contact Tess Bloch-Horowitz at tbloch ‘at’ stanford.edu.

  • alum9986

    Hey, what a relief to hear that there is “ANOTHER SIDE” to this fiasco, and that Title IX is preventing its dissemination!! Who knew? Up to now, the facts had seemed pretty clear to just about everyone: SAE’s long-standing tradition of jokes to COED (!) audiences about “useless” girls’ vaginas and beating up women? Incidents of verbal harassment witnessed by multiple students? Clear, photographic evidence of campus-wide cyberbullying and social media polls by anonymous whiners? Wow — ONLY HALF THE STORY!! We had been wondering about SAE’s deafening silence in regard to the well-documented charges above (well, apart from their helpful lectures about Title IX and some crying about the poor attendance at their “sausage fests” [their words]. What a shame they are prevented from sharing “their side” by big, bad Title IX!) Most appalling are the criticisms that the letter writer’s claims of harassment devalue the suffering experienced by actual victims of sexual assault. The extent of such hypocrisy is truly awe-inspiring: anyone who has survived sexual assault will certainly find SAE’s jokes about beating women infinitely more offensive and devaluing than anything in the letter writer’s statement above. As even a former SAE suggested, the line between hate speech and action is a fine one. Anyone living in the 21st century knows that they are simply different points on the same continuum. The letter writer has indeed survived more than any of us should have to experience at the hands of these losers and their scary problems with women.

  • Professor Too

    Oh darn it. I was hoping to hear “their side of the story.” Perhaps they can make a multi-media slideshow presentation. I think it could be entitled “My daddy said I can do this and he gave a million dollars to President Hennessey” or “I want a pony on a boat!”. These Veruca Salt babies have wasted enough of our time.

    Fact: no conscious woman would have sex with any of these losers.

  • Over 20 yrs with PSC

    “Well documented charges?” What are the pro forma penalties for being found guilty of these charges? Should residents of the SAE who were not even present during the party house lose their housing? As implemented by the University’s Title IX office, there is no justice being served. Why is it that no single offender has been “charged?” Why is it the entire house? Can you imagine if there had been an actual crime committed and the county attorney had filed charges against the entire house, and no single individual? The University’s actions are a sick perversion of justice. I am surprised they didn’t expel all of of the SAE’s for good measure, but perhaps their legal counsel managed to win that round, despite losing the other internal debates that went on before the Title IX decision was released.

  • alum9986

    For those crying that the university’s decision disproportionately punishes the whole house for the acts of a few, has it occurred to you to ask where these upstanding non-participants have been hiding, year after year, as the administration has spent the last several years dealing with this train wreck? Has it occurred to you that having to monitor and manage SAE’s disturbing problems with women for over a decade has imposed a continuing drain on university resources –without the slightest evidence of corresponding benefit? While other houses face periodic challenges regarding alcohol use or other routine transgressions, these geniuses continue to occupy true “outlier” territory in terms of their obvious struggles to share a campus with female students without having to hide behind jokes about vaginas and beating up women, or anonymously harassing people online. Stanford has had to divert manpower and dollars from other, more worthy uses to ensure that students here are able to pursue their educations in an environment that is free of hate speech and cyberbullying — not to mention having to protect itself from national embarrassment and potential lawsuits. If you can provide any evidence in support of SAE that would justify its continuing special treatment, believe me, the rest of us are dying to see it.

  • alum9986

    In addition, if there were members of this group who did not participate in or support the continuing sad, toxic behaviors that produced the university’s decision, it is indeed sad that they lost their house. What is far more unfortunate, however, is that such members or their fraternity advisers were unable, year after year, to step forward and change this group’s dysfunctional culture, (And, frankly, we’re a little creeped out that not even one of these people has stepped forward to speak for the “other side” that did not sanction SAE’s troublesome conduct. This is even when these brothers are so practiced at “anonymous” commentary and online social media polls! Guess it’s a little scarier when you’re standing up to your fellow “bros,” huh?) The bottom line is that a considerable amount of university time (and money) has gone towards trying to coax this group out of “the dark ages.” That the university finally gave up is a relief — and definitely no surprise — to the rest of us.

  • You are a professor?

    Just wow, a second posting from a professor which is a total embarrassment for the University and its faculty.

  • Post Less

    You should post less. You are hurting your “argument” with your histrionic rants.

  • 1000s of Words

    How about writing 1000s of words, chock full of accusations, emotions, flowery language, yet only 1 fact, an anonymous one at that which by the way had nothing to do with the original jokes, but about her abject hypocrisy in trying to socialize with SAEs after claiming to be a victim of theirs?

    Or maybe, leaving out context on the Cabo incident in an effort to manipulate readers?

  • john healey

    I have been holding my tongue while being increasingly shocked by the arrant stupidity of comments made here by Stanford students. But this latest one demands some analysis, as it is truly jaw-dropping. Let’s take a look:

    “How about writing 1000s of words . . .” — Actually, Ms. Bloch-Horowitz wrote a rather succinct piece that, to my (experienced) eye comes in under 2000 words. Okay, that’s picky. Let’s move on.

    “chock full of accusations, emotions, flowery language” — Not sure what the writer means by accusations. As for emotions, that’s kind of the point of the piece, isn’t it, to describe what it feels like to be the victim of harassment and retaliation? As for flowery language, that’s absurd; Ms. Bloch-Horowitz writes with admirable clarity and lack of unnecessary adjectives and adverbs.

    “yet only 1 fact” — That may be the real howler, the piece is filled with “facts”, and many of them are even supported with verifiable evidence. Perhaps “student” has never learned the difference between “fact” and “evidence.” The screenshot is both. Other facts in the article include, for example, the following:

    (1) the fact that three specific highly offensive jokes were told at the Roman Bath party. “student” may not understand that this is a “fact” even though Ms. B-H does not provide a video of the jokes being told. As such, it is a fact without evidence beyond her own testimony, but the lack of any denial by SAE leads me to conclude that this is what we call an “undisputed fact”

    (2) the fact that Ms. Bloch-Horowitz did NOT “report” or otherwise make any complaint about the jokes at the party. On this we have not only her word, but Stanford’s as well, as the recent official statement refers to the “false belief” that she had “reported Title IX concerns.”

    (3) the fact that two students were sent to the hospital from the Roman Bath party. That, too, seems to fall in the category of “undisputed fact” by virtue of the deafening silence.

    (4) the fact that 30 witnesses talked to the outside investigator. That figure seems to come from Stanford.

    (5) the fact that Ms. B-H felt so unsafe in Cabo that she cut her spring break short and flew home. On that we have only her word, but it strikes me as credible.

    I could go on, but you get the idea. Let’s continue:

    “an anonymous one at that” — excuse me, but what exactly is an anonymous fact? If “student” means that the screenshot is of an anonymous social polling app, again, isn’t that sort of the point?

    “which by the way had nothing to do with the original jokes” — this is where “student” appears to lose his (I assume “his”) grip on temporal relationships. The screenshot of the poll that quite plainly seeks to vilify Ms. B-H in Cabo comes before she (apparently inadvertently, at least initially) reported the retaliation against her. To be precise, it is a part of the retaliation she reported.

    “but about her abject hypocrisy” — “abject hypocrisy”? And you’re criticizing Ms. B-H for “flowery language”??

    “in trying to socialize with SAEs after claiming to be a victim of theirs?” — This is where “student” finally loses all grip on temporal relationships and logic. Ms. B-H is clear that she did not “claim[] to be a victim of [SAE]” until AFTER they started harassing and bullying her. According to her article, when she arrived at Cabo she did not know that she was being falsely accused of having reported SAE, and thus had no reason to believe she was a victim. Why would it be improper, or hypocritical, to try to socialize with SAE members under those circumstances? Because she had cooperated with the investigator?

  • Story Not Advanced

    You have now added your 100s of words to the author’s thousands, and still no facts (something known to be true) about how the SAEs retaliated against the author, per the title, the point of the artcle.

    Im sorry you took so much time to accomplish so little.

    BTW, is the author offended by the SAEs and avoids them, or enjoys their company and likes to socialize and drink with them?

    It would seem to be both. People are so complicated.

    Back to your drawing board.

  • Professor Too

    “Should residents of the SAE who were not even present during the party house lose their housing?”

    Yes.

  • Professor Too

    “I am surprised they didn’t expel all of of the SAE’s for good measure.”

    Me too.

  • Professor Too

    And now, SAE presents:

    The Only Story We Know! This is It! Our Sole Narrative!

    “She Asked For it.”

    Yes, folks — we don’t care if the subject is rape, domestic abuse, or retaliation and bullying — we have one story and it is good enough for us. She Asked For It!
    Act One: She Brought it On Herself!
    Act Two: She Enjoyed It!
    Act Three: She Was Drunk!
    Act Four: Uh Oh, Here Comes Title IX!
    Act Five: Daddy I Need a Lawyer!
    Act Six: That Drunk Girl Did It To Me!
    Act Seven: I Am So Sorry Mr. Etchemendy and I Promise If You Let Me Stay I Will Take the “It’s On Us” Training and Volunteer at the Rape Crisis Center! Please don’t take my Stanford education away. I am sorry! I’m Sorry! Daddy! Mommy! Help Me!
    Act Eight: You Bitch You Did This To Me!

    Written, Directed, and Starring, the Frat Bros of SAE.

  • Jonathan Poto

    Maybe she will replace you at your job and slowly fire all people similarly minded to you. Just a thought.

  • Jonathan Poto

    All the pro SAE anonymous commenters be like… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PztgWdMEJdg

  • Time for a Sabbatical

    You just compared being unwelcome at a private party to rape and domestic abuse.

  • kaym17

    I find it disturbing that a feminist would enlist her father as her mouthpiece. That is a kind of infantilization that my generation has worked tirelessly to overcome. Now, however, I see young women falling into the victim category easily, and, constantly referring to it to justify their ‘feminism.’
    We broke ground for women in the last century in order for women to stand on their own judgement, determine when and where they party, and determine their own safeguards. Curfews back in the day in women’s dorms were designed ‘to protect’ women. We thought we won a major victory in attaining the same standards of protection by the institution as the male students and thus determine our own curfew. Now, the women want the institution to punish those they choose to associate with who don’t live up to the women’s standards of decent conversation. Beware, curfews for young women would be a reasonable step for an institution trying to avoid responsibility for a women’s discomfort. Better to prepare for the workplace where as a professional woman you need to have the strength of your own convictions, practice your own ethics, and determine where you feel safe. Don’t rely on the MAN, i.e. the institution, or the individual male father or boyfriend, to protect you. For a woman, feminist or traditionalist, that will backfire in the end.

  • Space Cowboy

    I think I’ve figured you out, DOTO… you played qtr back as a senior on a JV high school football team. (2nd string, not much play time? )
    You weren’t even close to being recruited and didn’t have the talent for D1,2 or 3 college athletics. You also were NOT given any bids to any greek houses, or other social houses, and found it hard to” fit in” on this big campus. Thus, stories dealing with certain topics remind you of what you’ve missed out on and how you have a hard time coping. They might even enrage you. (Your “writing voice” has a worrisome angry/violent tone to it, most of the time.)
    A Stanford grad who comes back to haunt the Stanford Daily, so that he can insult people and send condescending video clips, needs serious therapy. I hope you can find it and do something productive with your life. (It would be a shame to waste the Stanford diploma, if you did indeed graduate.)

    (BTW- Its not healthy to be so jealous of others.)

  • Stanford parent

    As an alum, university employee and mother of two daughters, I was deeply saddened to read the article by Ms. Bloch, and even more saddened to see that the bulk of the commentary here fails to address the key salient points she raises. Many commenters seem
    to see the article as portraying personal conflicts or differences between Ms. Bloch and some members of the SAE fraternity who were facing sanctions. I see it completely differently: as she indicates in her opening paragraph, Ms. Bloch’s goal is to shed further light on the obstacles and potential risks students face when they are involved – even
    passively and anonymously — in campus investigations. Her descriptions of the SAE fraternity’s actions, and her reference to the parallels with sexual assault reporting, simply and clearly illustrate several important and troubling truths.

    The misogynist jokes that precipitated this turn of events are beside the point. What was important is that Ms. Bloch did not initiate a complaint about them or the fraternity; instead, she was one of thirty or more students approached by the university’s investigators. Shortly thereafter, her confidentiality was breached and her identity revealed. Ms. Bloch tells us what happened next: young men in this fraternity used a highly visible campus social media app to anonymously blame Ms. Bloch by name. The tone of this communication was not neutral, and included the suggestion. “f*ck her.” Her accusers did not identify themselves and Ms. Bloch had no recourse. At this point, she had now been victimized twice: first, by the investigation’s breach in confidentiality; and ,second, by anonymous SAE members’ response after learning her identity.

    SAE members’ subsequent decision to physically approach Ms. Bloch at a gathering and verbally harass her crossed a fatal line, at least for this reader. Ms. Bloch already describes
    how she had avoided this group on campus; however, the event in question took place off campus, in a foreign country and involved a wide array of students beyond SAE. As a parent, I can only imagine that she must have hoped for the best when she accompanied her travel mates to the party. She might have hoped, for example, that SAE members knew, at heart, that they alone were responsible for whatever sanctions they faced. She might
    have hoped that not all of those at the party were part of the faceless mass that had bullied her on social media. When the outcome was otherwise, some commenters have described the men’s mockery and verbal disparagement of Ms. Bloch as simple “rudeness.” I believe
    that most women and many men, if they are honest with themselves, would find this
    behavior by a group of men towards a lone woman threatening, particularly after the prior anonymous social media postings.

    Ms. Bloch uses these experiences to provide a lens through which readers can better understand what people go through when they report – or are asked for information on – campus crimes. She does not say she has been sexually assaulted, nor does she say her negative experiences rank anywhere near those of such victims. Instead, she lays out a
    convincing narrative that helps show why campus assault is on the rise while reporting remains low. I salute her bravery in coming forward to further illuminate what this dynamic can look like “on the ground” for those involved.

    I would prefer to sign my name; however, with a daughter still on campus and the distinct possibility that the same group of faceless young men might decide to target her, I, too, will remain anonymous. Sadly, Ms. Bloch’s story has enlightened this reader, for one.

  • Jonathan Poto

    **Slow clap** just for you. You did it, you won the internet, congratulations.

  • Jonathan Poto

    For a counterexample to show that derision toward SAE’s actions isn’t about limiting free speech, here’s someone actually being funny talking about an ‘offensive’ topic. Point of view matters to what you are talking about.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwMukKqx-Os

  • Also A Parent

    On the one hand, you materially misrepresent what we know to be true, and on the other, embellish for effect, yet you ask US to be “honest with ourselves?”

    That’s rich.

  • A Stanford mom

    I thought it was worth posting this here, since it got buried in the online Stanford Daily. Thank you SAE alum for posting this and recognizing and apologizing to Tess. It’s about time someone did. http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/06/01/an-open-letter-to-ms-bloch-horowitz-from-an-sae/

  • alum9986

    Nice poke and dodge! You are accusing the commenter above of materially misrepresenting “what we know to be true,” and that her words “embellish for effect.” THEN YOU RUN BACK TO YOUR DARK HOLE WITHOUT FURTHER EXPLANATION! Is that your idea of an effective rebuttal? One that effectively proves your point? Fail.

    If the account provided by the letter writer is false, can you or anyone share “the facts” with us? If this whole thing is about the letter writer’s lack of popularity with a couple of SAE “bros,” why did her problems with cyberbullying and being barred from parties start AFTER her name was leaked? Why did the remarks focus exclusively on her “reporting” and her

  • Another Stanford Parent

    I was directed here by fellow alum, and I am pretty surprised at the lack of productive commentary here, including the one above by “Also a Parent.” I guess I don’t understand what is meant by “materially misrepresent”: is he or she trying to say that the account given by Ms. Bloch-Horowitz is not true, or omits substantive facts? If so, can he or she clarify? Ms. Bloch-Horowitz’ article was intended to show that student involvement in campus investigations can leave them vulnerable to bullying and retaliation, and that this circumstance may underlie low campus crime reporting rates. If, after Ms. Bloch-Horowitz’ name was leaked by the investigator, she was the subject of a social media poll that asked if she “reports things” and ended with an expletive towards Ms. Bloch-Horowitz, how is this not retaliation? If she was then verbally discouraged from attending a party because of her supposed role in a Title IX investigation that caused SAE to lose its house, again, isn’t this retaliatory action? Both acts were directly related to her witting or unwitting involvement in an investigation, and both would be reasonably considered to cause any student discomfort, unease and, presumably, second thoughts about being involved in similar inquiries in the future. Are the rest of us missing something?

  • Also A Parent

    I was referring to the post to which I responded. I am of the belief that if you are going to make a moral indictment of a group of people, you should at least have the deceny to present what is known accurately, and avoid embellishing.

    We are not debating which wine to have with dinner, but the characters of a group of young men.

    And if you cant see the errors and embellishment in her post, I dont think you are looking at it critically enough.

    Pesonally, I dont know if the SAEs should be put in jail, or something less for their behavior, or the author is unbalanced, or something in between, or a combination of both..

    IMO, we dont know enough to come to any conclusions in regards to her claims of SAE retaliation.

    Specifically, until someone can fairly and accurately describe what happened in Cabo, anyone coming to any conclusions is merely expressing bias, one way or the other. Context matters, and we have none, worse yet, we dont even know what happened.

  • Also A Parent

    An addendum:

    How do we know about any party? The author doesnt indicate a thing about any party.

    We are supposed to interpret this whole endeaver based upon the anonymous postings of someone who may or may not be biased, and we have no clue as to how to assess their credibility?

    BTW, as far as I can tell, you have your sequencing wrong But in fairness it is hard to tell the sequence of events as the author does not do a good job of explaining the events in Cabo, nor their sequence.

    But as I read the article, the joke incident happened, there was an investigation, it was ajudicated, and the SAEs were sanctioned.

    The SAEs did not do anything as a result of that sequence of events.

    Over a year later, SOMETHING happens in Cabo. We dont know what.

    Based on that experience, the author calls the Title IX office from Cabo and reports whatever happened. The Title IX officer makes the SAE lawyer aware of whatever happened, and the lawyer writes the SAEs making them aware of the report, and then the online social poll happens as a result of that report, not the original joke investigation.

    And back to this party theme. Do you know it to be accurate? If so, how? The author makes no mention of it.

  • Mom

    @Also a parent….so Tess goes to great lengths to state that she did not call the Title 9 office. Then you assert she did. Did you not understand that point? The Cabo party as best I can tell did not take place a year later, the sanctions against SAE did. We obviously aren’t going to be privy to all the facts of the investigation, but clearly the university was and also was troubled enough by SAE actions both involving retaliation and ongoing drinking at the house.

  • Also A Parent

    It may be that SAE should be disbarred to never return, it may be something else, I dont know. That is my point, it is confusing to try and piece together what actually happened here as the author doesn’t share any details of the critical events in Cabo. Until I know more, I dont think it is fair to come to any conclusions.

    And back to the post to which you asked, if you are going to come to conclusions, at least have the decency to present what we do know accurately.

    As to the sequence of events, per my understanding, the below is how I arrived at my timeline, BTW, it is hard to do, you really have to pay attention to the story,

    “My story began when I attended SAE’s Roman Bath party last spring.”

    So the jokes happened, “last spring.”

    “Over the summer, Stanford hired an independent investigator to look into Roman Bath”.

    The investigation happened “over the summer.” Since we are not yet in summer, that must mean LAST summer, so the spring the author refers to is not the most recent one, but one a year ago.

    “I first learned that I was the target of harassment when I was on spring break in Cabo. I found out that SAE not only knew that I had spoken to the investigator,”

    This must be referring to this most recent spring break as this most recent one is the only one which has happened since last summer when the investigation took place. So Cabo happened a year or more after the original Roman Bath incident. And she was not aware that she was at the center of a false SAE narrative that had her reporting the Roman Bath incident for over a year.

    “I called my parents, and we decided to contact the investigator”

    This happened as the result of whatever happened in Cabo.

    BTW, the online poll happened sometime at Cabo, i cant tell if it was before or after the call to the Title IX office, and subsequent lawyer’s email, or after. I dont think the author is clear on this point. I think this is germane because it explains the reason for the online poll. was it the result of the false narrative that she reported the Roman Bath incident, OR because she reported whatever happened in Cabo? And if the latter, we get back to, WHAT HAPPENED IN CABO.

    Did some SAEs see her poolside, and surround her lounge chair and mock and harass her?

    Did she see them, stick her finger on her nose, waggle her fingers and say nanny nanny nanny, you got kicked off of campus which they then responded to?

    (I doubt either happened, but I think context matters, and I dont know ANY context for her Cabo claims. And I am unwilling to use the party narrative as it does not come from her.)

    You nor I will solve this. My point is that I dont think enough is known to draw any conclusions. So the people who are, on either side are merely expressing their bias to arrive at any conclusions that they reach. Just my opinion.

    BTW, as a parent, the one definitive thing I would say is that if you send your kid to Spring Break Mexico, BOY OR GIRL, you are asking for it. My kid asks me for money every year to go, I say NOT A CHANCE: TOO DANGEROUS: He then uses his own money to go. Best phone call I get every year is the one I get when he returns safely. I am worried sick that whole week until I hear from him. NOTHING GOOD HAPPENS when there is that much alcohol involved.

    And as a father of daughters concerned about sexual violence, if you think frats are dangerous places what is Spring Break? Seems to me to be a frat party on steroids only with much more alcohol, and close to no authority, The potential for sexual violence against women at Spring Break would seem to be off of the charts. So while I have no control over my adult children, I do everything I can do to share my concerns with them so that they dont go as they view the risks as too high, particularly my daughters given what I consider the extraordinary risk for sexual violence.

  • Mom

    You don’t have to come to conclusions. The school had the evidence it needed and it came to its own conclusion and took away the house privileges for SAE. Enough said. I think what Tess laid out is quite clear — more than detailed — and many of us have drawn our conclusions from what she stated happened.

  • Also A Parent

    Great we disagree. Not the first, nor the last time that will happen.

    But when you stated this,

    “so Tess goes to great lengths to state that she did not call the Title 9 office. Then you assert she did. Did you not understand that point? The Cabo party as best I can tell did not take place a year later,”

    You were simply wrong on both counts. She did call, and Cabo was more than a year later.

    So to answer your question, yes I did understand the point, apparently you are the one who missed some data.

    Clearly doesnt appear to change anything for you, OK, no problem,

    Have a good day. I am now officially bored with this topic.

    I hope everyone involved, SAE, Title IX and the author have all learned valuable lessons from this whole issue.

  • Stanford parent

    Also A Parent, I understand your stated concern that these charges are not frivolous, and have implications and consequences for all involved. It is unfortunate that the group of young men who created this situation seem to lack the maturity and perspective to understand that what may look like harmless joking and finger-pointing to them may appear threatening and retaliatory to others — particularly those with a more broad and seasoned understanding of the world. You also recount your admirable efforts to warn your children about the dangers of Mexico, and the perpetual risk of sexual violence young people face today. What is confusing for this parent is that your limited commentary regarding these young men’s conduct — putting the Mexico incident aside — does not appear to address the undeniable cause-and-effect associations that exist between their seemingly trivial actions and the sexual violence epidemic about which you are so understandably concerned. Humor that denigrates women’s bodies and worth inspires a visceral reaction of distaste and unease for most women, creating an atmosphere that is uncomfortable, if not hostile. In addition, countless studies show that environments that treat discrimination and violence against women lightly have a greater incidence of both. Given these facts, should campuses provide safe havens or forums for such humor? And if one student becomes involved in a campus inquiry into such activities, is it reasonable that a faceless group of other students should be allowed to use a campus-wide medium to anonymously exhort others to “f*ck” her? As another commenter asked, how could such actions be considered anything but retaliatory? You state that there is insufficient evidence provided to make full judgement on this situation; however, many parents feel that what little evidence is shown above more than adequately makes the case that this fraternal organization, as it currently stands, is not a positive presence on campus. For a parent clearly and admirably concerned about risk, can you not see that such actions do fall on the continuum of sexual violence — far away from actual physical violence, of course — but on the same continuum? I do support your hopes that these young men have learned their lesson. As for Ms. Bloch, I don’t know what she is supposed to have learned from this experience, except, perhaps, that taking a stand against hate speech is more difficult than any of us could have ever imagined in this day and age, and even at a place like Stanford.

  • Stanford parent

    @Also A Parent, I feel I must on principle respond to your reply, and, as a result, am “bumping” this note up in the queue. Your advice to readers and observers that “context matters,” is indeed wise. As a fellow parent, I certainly understand your stated concern that these charges are not frivolous, and have implications and consequences for all involved. It is indeed unfortunate that the group of young men who created this situation seem to lack the maturity and perspective to understand that what may look like harmless joking and finger-pointing to them may appear threatening and retaliatory to others — particularly those with a more broad and seasoned understanding of the world, and of the causal roots and forms of gender bias. You also go on to recount your admirable efforts to warn your children about the dangers of Mexico, and the perpetual risk of sexual violence young people face today — concerns all responsible parents can share. Where our perspectives firmly diverge is with your appeals that observers wait for more complete information before making judgement. Putting any Mexico incident wholly aside and focusing solely on the undisputed evidence available, your remarks and position fail to recognize some clear cause-and-effect associations here: there is a undeniable, well-documented link between this group’s seemingly trivial actions, and the sexual violence epidemic about which you are so understandably concerned. Humor that denigrates women’s bodies and basic worth inspires a visceral reaction of distaste and unease for most women, creating an atmosphere that is uncomfortable, if not hostile. In addition, countless studies show that environments that treat discrimination and violence against women lightly have a far greater incidence of both. Given these facts, should university campuses, whose mission is to develop young minds and furnish them the tools with which to make positive contributions to society, provide safe havens or forums for such humor? And if one student becomes involved in a campus inquiry into such activities, is it reasonable that a faceless group of other students should be allowed to respond with a campus-wide order to “f*ck” her, without scrutiny or possible consequences? As another commenter asked, how could such actions be considered anything but retaliatory? You state that there is insufficient evidence provided to make full judgement on this situation; however, many of us feel that what little indisputable evidence is offered more than adequately makes the case that this fraternal organization, as it currently stands, is not a positive presence on campus. And, @Also A Parent, as a person who is clearly and admirably concerned about risk, can you not see that jokes and attitudes that demean women and their bodies, and social polls criticizing students for their supposed role in the sanctioning of such views, do, in fact, fall on the continuum of sexual violence? They may occupy a spot on that “slippery slope” that is far removed from actual physical violence, of course, but they fall firmly on the same universal continuum. Those of us who see these connections must speak out. I do support your hopes that these young men have learned their lesson. As for Ms. Bloch, I don’t know what lessons she is supposed to have learned from this experience, except, perhaps, that taking a stand against hate speech is more difficult than any of us could have ever imagined in this day and age, and even at a place like Stanford.

  • Jonathan Poto
  • webattorney

    As a father to a high schooler boy, I would have shut down SAE if it condoned these “tasteless” jokes. If SAE did not condone, SAE should have kicked out these members immediately. These jokes are to me not merely tasteless but vicious attacks on women. Imagine telling these jokes to mothers who actually gave birth to them. My mom would have kicked my behind several times for being a member of any organization whose members uttered these jokes. Lol