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University responds, students petition after proposal for plaque quote draws scrutiny

(CHRIS DELGADO/The Stanford Daily)

Stanford proposed the quote “I’m right here, I’m okay, everything’s okay, I’m right here” as one of several options to adorn a plaque at the site of Brock Turner’s sexual assault, the University has confirmed.

Last Wednesday, the Fountain Hopper blasted Stanford for proposing the phrase “I’m okay, everything’s okay,” a selection that law professor Michele Dauber — a family friend of Turner’s victim who proposed re-landscaping the area of the assault — likewise criticized, calling it “out of context.” 

The University initially said it could not comment because communications between Stanford and representatives of the victim, known publicly as Emily Doe, were confidential. However, the University later released some details of the exchange, including three quotes proposed at one point by Stanford as options for the plaque, which was intended to display words from Doe’s statement to Turner upon his sentencing.

The University made the suggestions after Doe’s initial proposal of a quote that the University objected to. Doe followed up with another quote and ultimately withdrew from the plaque’s creation after Stanford rejected that one. The plaque was to be part of a marker near Kappa Alpha, where the University last year replaced the area of Turner’s crime with benches and a fountain.

The quote that came under the Fountain Hopper’s scrutiny comes from a passage in Doe’s letter in which she describes putting on a more cheerful face for her sister in the wake of the assault.

“Instinctively and immediately, I wanted to take away her pain,” Doe wrote of her sister. “I smiled at her, I told her to look at me, I’m right here, I’m okay, everything’s okay, I’m right here.”

In the same paragraph, Doe goes on to describe what she kept from her sister.

“She did not know that beneath my sweatsuit, I had scratches and bandages on my skin, my vagina was sore and had become a strange, dark color from all the prodding, my underwear was missing, and I felt too empty to continue to speak.”

According to University spokesperson E.J. Miranda, the University suggested two other quotes along with the one that sparked criticism: “You are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you” and “On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought every day for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you.”

Miranda said Stanford objected to Doe’s first quote from her statement to Turner because the University found it “inappropriate to the purpose of the garden as a place for contemplation and solace.” The second quote, Miranda said, was rejected because a sexual assault counselor felt it would be “triggering” to some victims of sexual assault.

Miranda declined to provide the quotes, however. Dauber, too, has declined to give more details.

“I don’t want to engage further with the University’s various changing stories about this,” she wrote in an email to The Daily, saying she had supported the idea of acknowledging what happened at the re-landscaped site “by centering the victim’s voice and experience.”

Meanwhile, the Stanford Association of Students for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) has drafted a petition calling on the University to publicly apologize for rejecting Doe’s choice of quotes, take back its own proposals and install the plaque with the quote Doe had first suggested.

In an email to The Daily, ASAP co-president Stephanie Pham ’18 said that the University-chosen quote that came under fire from the Fountain Hopper was “absolutely insensitive and appalling” and “an insult to the Stanford community.”

When I saw that Stanford had agreed to move forward with [the re-landscaping plans], I was proud of the University for stepping up and trying to provide some sort of remedy to the survivor of the case,” Pham wrote. “However, Stanford choosing to reject the survivor’s chosen quotes is an act that only further silences survivors.

 

Contact Hannah Knowles at hknowles ‘at’ stanford.edu.

 

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