Editor’s note: This letter was originally posted as a comment here and is republished as a letter to the editor at the author’s request.
Dear Stanford Daily editor:
It is always upsetting to be alerted to the publication of negative news about a colleague and friend.
But when I received word that an article had just appeared on The Stanford Daily about Prof. Emanuele Castano, I thought it was a joke. I knew that Prof. Castano’s life had been wrecked by an investigation into alleged sexual harassment, but why would The Stanford Daily publish something on Prof. Castano, who lives in New York and was employed at The New School? When I read the article I understood: Having found no venue in New York that would publish their one-sided account, Prof. Castano’s accusers had seen an opportunity in his rather innocuous appointment as an affiliate without salary or teaching responsibilities at the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) and reached out to The Stanford Daily in the hope of finding a welcoming ear.
I don’t blame them for doing so. They have their own reasons for being frustrated by the byzantine meanderings of Title IX investigations. But it was very disappointing to read accounts of very serious allegations in articles such as the one published by The Stanford Daily. The current climate of public exposure of a pervasive culture of sexual assault and harassment in many sectors of this society should invite extreme caution in public reporting, precisely because so much is at stake. Constructing an article on the basis of anonymous sources is legitimate, but reporting lurid details about alleged sexual encounters and nonchalantly referring to them as “consensual and nonconsensual” is irresponsible and inflammatory. Did the article author inquire if the student in question had filed a police report against Prof. Castano for having been raped (i.e. nonconsensual sex)? And if not, why not?
Given the seriousness of the allegations, one would expect this case to be in the hands of the criminal justice system. If it is not, could it also be the case that the story being offered to The Stanford Daily in so many enticing details was at least seasoned by the motive of revenge? Why would the student in question not have found anyone in New York to publish her story if it were all so well corroborated, as it appears to be in this article? The rest of the article is based on one Ph.D. student’s allegations regarding the liaison between Prof. Castano and postdoc Namata Goyal, who is describes as both “victim” and scheming accomplice.
It is probable that Prof. Castano could not comment on any of this due to the Title IX gag provisions regarding cases such as this one, and I can imagine that after the publication of this article, he might have to break his silence risking severe legal consequences. I just wish that campus press editors and journalists displayed a bit more restrain in reporting and, rather than become the mouthpieces for anyone’s allegations (or counter-allegations), focused on issues of general concern for all involved.
There is clearly a lot more than meets the eye in the story of Prof. Castano and the student who accused him. But one thing is certain from this article — and should have been worth highlighting: Title IX investigations, and provisions about transparency of procedures, settlements and gag orders are in severe need to be revised and discussed. They are unfair both towards alleged victims and perpetrators, and they ultimately seem to only work to feed an unhealthy editorial passion for attracting readers through spicy revelations about sordid academic relations.
Associate Professor, Italian Studies and Vice Chair, French and Italian Studies, UCSB
Contact Claudio Fogu at claudiofogu ‘at’ ucsb.edu.