Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

An open letter to President Marc Tessier-Lavigne

Congratulations on the near completion of your first year as Stanford’s president. Over the course of the past year, in numerous conversations, talks and statements, you have stated that Stanford takes sexual violence on our campus very seriously. You have stated that as a community, it is our collective responsibility to work together to end sexual violence on our campus. You have stated that as our president, you want to create a safe learning environment for all students. We, these collective 32 current and former leaders of the Associated Students of Stanford University, thank you for your commitment, and today, we call on you to act on it.

Numerous reports now suggest that the Trump administration is likely to rescind the 2011 Dear Colleague letter and potentially other guidance on the enforcement of Title IX. This guidance importantly clarified the obligations upon universities like Stanford to protect and enforce the civil rights of their students, by, for example, requiring schools to have a Title IX coordinator, providing examples of what “prompt and equitable resolution” means, clarifying the independence of a school investigation from a criminal investigation, and establishing preponderance of the evidence as the burden of proof. If the Trump administration does rescind this guidance, it will result in decreased enforcement of the Title IX protections that keep our students safe and help them access equitable process and accommodations. This is unacceptable, especially for the Stanford community. With multiple cases still under investigation by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, it is tantamount that our community and our complainants get the justice they deserve.

Given President Trump’s history as someone who has been accused of sexually assaulting numerous women, we cannot trust his administration to have the best interests of survivors at heart. As such, it is even more critical that this university’s administration protect each and every student’s right to learn free from any kind of discrimination, especially if the government will not.

It is well past time that this university and this country move forward in the fight to eradicate sexual violence from places of learning. Enough is enough.

Today, we call upon you and the rest of the Stanford administration to make good on your promises and commitment to take sexual assault “very seriously.” We, the undersigned students to whom you have made such a commitment, demand that you publicly commit to upholding prior Department of Education guidance, including the 2011 Dear Colleague letter, regardless of the actions of the Trump Department of Education and White House. Furthermore, we ask that you make your voice heard to the Department of Education and Secretary DeVos, to encourage her to maintain policies and guidance that have been established by the past four decades of presidential administrations on both side of the aisle.

Stanford has always prized itself as being the best and being at the forefront of innovation. This past year, the University has seen significant controversy in the way that it has handled cases of sexual violence in the past. Just a few months ago, however, you listened to survivors and allies and renewed your support of survivors by adopting a three-year pilot of Callisto. At the end of the year, Provost Drell provided a new level of transparency in supplying statistics from the pilot Student Title IX Process. We call on you to continue this encouraging trend of supporting survivors.

Stand up for survivors and stand with survivors. Tell survivors that you believe them and that this university will continue to support them by continuing to follow best practices and guidance previously issued by the Department of Education.

“Inclusion must be central to our efforts in the coming decade. This starts with reaffirming our culture of civility and our culture of respect for the dignity of every member of our community and includes a rejection of all forms of violence, including the sexual violence that has roiled our campus, for which we have zero tolerance.” Those were your words, President Tessier-Lavigne. It’s time to act on them. We look forward to hearing from you.

Signed,

Justice Tention ’18, ASSU Executive President, 2017-18
Vicki Niu ’18, ASSU Executive Vice President, 2017-18
Amanda Edelman ’17, ASSU Executive Vice President, 2016-17
Rachel Samuels ’17, ASSU Executive Chief of Staff, 2016-17
John-Lancaster Finley ’16, ASSU Executive President, 2015-16
Brandon Hill ’16, ASSU Executive Vice President, 2015-16
Jennifer Hill ’15, Predoctoral, Co-Chair of the Graduate Student Council, 2017-18
Pau Guinart Ph.D. ’18, Co-Chair of the Graduate Student Council, 2016-17
Kari Barclay Ph.D. ’21, Graduate Student Council, 2017-18
Melanie Malinas Ph.D. ’20, Graduate Student Council, 2017-18
Megan Conlon Ph.D. ’18, Graduate Student Council, 2017-18
Kojoh Atta ’20, Chair of the 19th Undergraduate Senate
Shanta Katipamula ’19, Chair of the 18th Undergraduate Senate
Remy Gordon ’20, Deputy Chair of the 19th Undergraduate Senate
Mylan Gray ’19, Deputy Chair of the 18th Undergraduate Senate
Lizzie Ford ’20, 19th Undergraduate Senate
Katie Hufker ’18, 19th Undergraduate Senate
Erica Scott ’20, 19th Undergraduate Senate
Kimiko Hirota ’20, 19th Undergraduate Senate
Hamzeh Daoud ’20, 19th Undergraduate Senate
Janique Lee ’20, 19th Undergraduate Senate
Lark Wang ’20, 19th Undergraduate Senate
Gabe Rosen ’19, 18th and 19th Undergraduate Senates
Carson Smith ’19, 18th Undergraduate Senate
Kathryn Treder ’18, 18th Undergraduate Senate
Jayaram Ravi ’19, 18th Undergraduate Senate
Romeo Umaña ’19, 18th Undergraduate Senate
Alpha Hernandez ’19, 18th Undergraduate Senate
Jasmin Espinosa ’18, 17th and 18th Undergraduate Senates
Hattie Gawande ’18, 17th and 18th Undergraduate Senates
Cenobio Hernandez ’18, 17th and 18th Undergraduate Senates
Luka Fatuesi ’17, 16th Undergraduate Senate