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An open letter to Stanford on sexual harassment in academia

By

Dear Alex Woloch,

We are writing as the literary friends, colleagues and readers of Seo-Young Chu to convey our hopes that Stanford — and, particularly, the English Department — will lead the way toward a more open conversation about sexual harassment in academia.  We write as your colleagues, too, trusting that you share our commitment to gender equality in our institutional structures. As so many other institutions are rethinking the sources as well as the effects of the power they invest disproportionately in men, we see a rare opportunity for Stanford to confront a problem that is persistent and serious at universities across the U.S. We write to express our support for you as well as our hope that you’ll seize this moment.

We were glad to hear that Stanford’s General Counsel sent an apology to Seo-Young on November 27 for the ways she suffered from Jay Fliegelman’s treatment of her, which the Counsel called  “inappropriate.” We were also glad to hear that the English Department has opened new channels of communication with graduate students in recent weeks about mentoring and Title IX. These represent significant efforts on Stanford’s part, and they bolster our optimism about the strength of the academic culture we share.

We see these efforts as necessary first steps. Knowing that Seo-Young has further questions about the case that was lodged against Jay Fliegelman, we hope first of all that Stanford will be candid with her. Seo-Young was raped by her advisor, and she was hospitalized for psychiatric care shortly after. It would be meaningful to Seo-Young to have that history acknowledged by the current administration at Stanford and, particularly, by the English Department. That seems only just.

Stanford acknowledged that history privately after the investigation of Seo-Young’s case at the time, when significant sanctions were levied against Jay Fliegelman. Still, he continued to be sufficiently revered in public that the graduate students of ASECS named their mentoring award after him unwittingly, and he is remembered fondly in official department documents. We were gratified to see that ASECS’s board renamed the award after Seo-Young’s essay broke the chorus of plaudits that Stanford has issued to remember Jay Fliegelman. We would love to see the English Department reckon with that institutional history in public, too.

We appreciate the delicacy as well as the difficulty of this task, and we are undertaking our own iterations of it.  In the course of our careers, we all become indebted to people and institutions that have done real harm to others if not to us. Those debts produce a gratitude that is entwined with deep discomfort, so it is with self-interest as well as ethical and political purpose that we are eager to see the English Department declare its solidarity with Seo-Young Chu.

And as we follow your continued relationship to Seo-Young, we are attentive to your conversations with your current graduate students. We worry that the historical record of Seo-Young’s case gives our most junior colleagues a jaundiced view of the entitlements that will accrue to them as they move through the ranks in academic culture. Graduate students at Stanford might also reasonably question the ways their university balances their safety against its imperative to manage its history and its brand. And this history must have chilling effects on any woman who has a grievance to file in the present against a faculty member at Stanford. With these concerns in mind, we are watching Stanford’s efforts to clarify its guidelines for faculty/student relations as we articulate the best practices for mentoring our junior colleagues with the intellectual energy and the institutional protections they deserve.

This is all to say that we see Stanford’s problems as our problems, too. Alongside you, we hope to build an institutional culture that protects the right and ability of all of its members to do the work we love.

Sincerely,

Gloria Fisk, Associate Professor of English, Queens College, CUNY
Kevin L. Ferguson, Assistant Professor of English, Queens College, CUNY
Amy Wan, Associate Professor of English, Queens College and the Graduate Center, CUNY
Tanya Agathocleous, Associate Professor of English, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY
William Orchard, Assistant Professor of English, Queens College, CUNY
Jordan Alexander Stein, Associate Professor of English, Fordham University
Sean O’Toole, Associate Professor of English, Baruch College, CUNY
Caroline K. Hong, Associate Professor of English, Queens College, CUNY
Annmarie Drury, Associate Professor of English, Queens College, CUNY
Sean Grattan, Lecturer in American Literature, University of Kent
Jason Tougaw, Associate Professor of English, Queens College, CUNY
Matthew Hart, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University
Eugenia Zuroski, Associate Professor of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University
Leif Sorensen, Associate Professor of English, Colorado State University
Briallen Hopper, Lecturer in English, Yale University
Catherine Nicholson, Associate Professor of English, Yale University
Duncan Faherty, Associate Professor of English and American Studies, Queens College and the Graduate Center, CUNY
Jeff Cassvan, Lecturer in English, Queens College, CUNY
Wayne Moreland, Lecturer in English, Queens College, CUNY
Hester Blum, Associate Professor of English, Penn State University
Walt Hunter, Assistant Professor of World Literature, Clemson University
Richard C. McCoy B.A. ’68, Distinguished Professor of English, Queens College and the Graduate Center, CUNY
Sian Silyn Roberts, Associate Professor of English, Queens College, CUNY
Andrea Walkden, Associate Professor of English, Queens College, CUNY
Karen Weingarten, Associate Professor of English, Queens College, CUNY
Marco F. Navarro, Lecturer, Queens College, CUNY
Nicole Cooley. Professor of English, Queens College, CUNY
Bharat Venkat B.A. ’06 M.A. ’07, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Oregon
Megan Paslawski, Lecturer of English, Queens College, CUNY
Rebekah Sheldon, Assistant Professor of English, Indiana University
Monique R. Morgan Ph.D. ’02, Associate Professor of English, Indiana University
Rachel Greenwald Smith, Associate Professor of English, Saint Louis University
Ryan Black, Lecturer of English, Queens College, CUNY
Robin Valenza Ph.D. ’03, Associate Professor of English, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Richard Menke Ph.D. ’00, Associate Professor of English, University of Georgia
Sujata Iyengar Ph.D. ’98, Professor of English, University of Georgia
Talia Schaffer, Professor of English, Queens College, CUNY and the Graduate Center, CUNY
Cliff Mak, Assistant Professor of English, Queens College, CUNY
Miles P. Grier, Assistant Professor of English, Queens College, CUNY
Steven F. Kruger Ph.D. ’88, Professor of English, Queens College and the Graduate Center, CUNY
John Rogers, Professor of English, Yale University
Dawn Coleman Ph.D. ’04, Associate Professor of English, University of Tennessee
James J. Marino Ph.D. ’04, Associate Professor of English, Cleveland State University
Margaret Homans, Professor of English and of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, Yale University
Charles M. Tung, Associate Professor of English, Seattle University
Hugh English, Department of English, Queens College, CUNY
Haerin Shin, Assistant Professor of English, Vanderbilt University
Carley Moore, Clinical Professor of Writing and Contemporary Culture and Creative Production, NYU
Eric Song, Associate Professor of English Literature, Swarthmore College
Sarah Evans, Associate Professor of Art History, Northern Illinois University
Jennifer L. Stewart, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Queens College, CUNY
Martha Elena Rojas Ph.D. ’04, Associate Professor, University of Rhode Island
Tze-Yin Teo, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Oregon
Carrie Hintz, Associate Professor of English, Queens College and Graduate Center, CUNY
Jennifer Ho, Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature, UNC Chapel Hill
Christine Hong, Associate Professor of Literature and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, UC Santa Cruz
Sue J. Kim, Professor of English, University of Massachusetts Lowell
James Kyung-Jin Lee, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies and English, UC Irvine
Kouslaa Kessler-Mata, Associate Professor of Politics, University of San Francisco
David Roh, Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Utah
Jane Hseu, Associate Professor, Department of English, Dominican University
Kirsten T. Saxton, Professor, Department of English, Mills College
Jeffrey Santa Ana, Associate Professor, Department of English, Stony Brook University, SUNY
Marisela Chávez Ph.D. ’05, Associate Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies, California State University, Dominguez Hills
Julia H. Lee, Associate Professor, Department of Asian American Studies, UC Irvine
Mimi Khuc, Lecturer, University of Maryland
Lawrence-Minh Bui Davis, Curator, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center
Veronica Schanoes, Associate Professor, Department of English, Queens College, CUNY
Kyla Schuller, Assistant Professor, Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University New Brunswick; 2017-18 External Faculty Fellow, Stanford Humanities Center
Sylvia Chong M.A. ’95, Associate Professor, Department of English and Program in American Studies, University of Virginia
Jessica Wolfe Ph.D. ’00, Professor, English and Comparative Literature, UNC Chapel Hill
Julia Lee, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Loyola Marymount University
Sarah Cameron B.A. ’99 M.A. ’02, Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Maryland–College Park
Mark Chiang, Associate Professor of Global Asian Studies and English, University of Illinois at Chicago
Wendy Allison Lee, Assistant Professor of English, Skidmore College
Susanna Newbury, Assistant Professor of Art History, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Betsy Huang, Associate Professor of English and Director, Center for Gender, Race and Area Studies, Clark University
LynleyShimat Lys, Graduate Assistant, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
Terry Park, Lecturer, Asian American Studies Program, University of Maryland, College Park
Cheryl Narumi Naruse, Assistant Professor of English, Tulane University
Elaine H. Kim, Professor of the Graduate School and Professor Emerita of Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies, UC Berkeley
Michelle N. Huang, College Fellow (2017-18); Assistant Professor (2018-) of English and Asian American Studies, Northwestern University
Grace J. Yoo, Professor of Asian American Studies, San Francisco State University
Jean Galbraith, Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania Law School
Joel Burges Ph.D. ’07, Assistant Professor of English, University of Rochester
Christine Kitano, Assistant Professor, Writing and English, Ithaca College
Ji-Yeon Yuh B.S. ’87, Associate Professor of History and Asian American Studies, Northwestern University
Christopher T. Fan, Assistant Professor of English, UC Irvine
Jinah Kim, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, California State University, Northridge
Jinny Huh, Associate Professor of English, University of Vermont
Kelly J. Mays Ph.D. ’94, Associate Professor of English, University of Nevada Las Vegas
Kyla Wazana Tompkins, Associate Professor, Pomona College
Douglas S. Ishii, Visiting Assistant Professor, Northwestern University
Jeehyun Lim, Assistant Professor of English, University at Buffalo, State University of New York
Susette Min, Associate Professor, Asian American Studies, UC Davis
Sarah Park Dahlen, Associate Professor, Library and Information Science, St. Catherine University
Nan Kim, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
Juliana Chang, Professor and Chair, Department of English, Santa Clara University
May-lee Chai, Assistant Professor, Creative Writing Department, San Francisco State University
CedarBough Saeji, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of British Columbia
Seung Hee Jeon, Lecturer, Boston College
Hsuan Hsu, Professor of English, UC Davis
Cristina Serna, Assistant Professor, Women’s Studies, Colgate University
Hosu Kim, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, College of Staten Island, CUNY
Peter Y. Paik, Associate Professor, Department of French, Italian and Comparative Literature, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
Kasturi Ray, Associate Professor, Women and Gender Studies, San Francisco State University
Edith Chen, Professor, Asian American Studies, California State University, Northridge
Neda Atanasoski, Associate Professor, Feminist Studies, UC Santa Cruz
Christopher Newfield, Professor, English Department, UC Santa Barbara
Aimee Bahng, Assistant Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies, Pomona College
Rei Magosaki, Associate Professor, Department of English, Chapman University
Erin Forbes, Lecturer, Department of English, University of Bristol
Gabriella Gruder-Poni, Hunter College High School ‘93
Fiona Lee, Lecturer, Department of English, University of Sydney
Jesse Molesworth, Associate Professor of English, Indiana University
Monica Kim, Assistant Professor, Department of History, New York University
Annie McClanahan, Assistant Professor of English, UC Irvine
Jonathan P. Eburne, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, English and French and Francophone Studies, Penn State University
Margaret Ronda, Assistant Professor of English, UC Davis
Abram Foley, Lecturer of Literature and Creative Industries, University of Exeter
Lok Siu Ph.D. ’00, Associate Professor, Department of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley
Desirée A. Martín, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, English Dept., UC Davis
Barbara W. Kim, Professor, Asian and Asian American Studies, California State University, Long Beach
Gina Bloom, Associate Professor of English, UC Davis
Cindi Katz, Professor and Chair, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Graduate Center, CUNY
Evelyn I. Rodriguez, Associate Professor of  Sociology, University of San Francisco
Sal (Sarah) Nicolazzo, Assistant Professor of Literature, UC San Diego
Kathleen Frederickson, Associate Professor of English, UC Davis
Kathy Knapp, Associate Professor, University of Connecticut
Joo Ok Kim, Assistant Professor of American Studies, University of Kansas
Min Hyoung Song, Professor of English, Boston College
Linda Camarasana, Associate Professor, English; Director, Women’s Center, SUNY Old Westbury
Sarah Heston, writer in Los Angeles, alum of University of Missouri
Joshua Clover, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, UC Davis
Kathryn O’Donoghue, Assistant Professor of English, Suffolk County Community College

 

This letter was republished and reformatted in The Daily with permission of the lead author; the original letter can be found here.