By Alex Tsai
Seo-Young Chu M.A. ’01, a survivor of sexual abuse by deceased English professor Jay Fliegelman Ph.D ’77 during her time as a graduate student, returned to campus to meet with General Counsel Debra Zumwalt to request that the University contribute $1 million to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Stanford denied Chu’s request.
However, both Zumwalt and Provost Persis Drell have since offered to make personal donations to RAINN. Chu requested that they donate in honor of “every victim and every survivor.”
In a meeting with Zumwalt, Chu requested that Stanford contribute one million dollars to a sexual assault prevention organization of her choosing. She also made the repeated request to view the full report Stanford commissioned on her case in 2000. Stanford denied Chu’s initial petition, which she filed in early Nov. 2017, to see the report.
University spokesperson E.J. Miranda wrote in an email to The Daily that Stanford, by University protocol, does not disclose full investigation reports to the complaining or responding party.
“Investigations in matters of this type are conducted in confidence and contain descriptions of interviews that are likewise conducted in confidence,” he wrote.
However, Miranda noted that the University does provide the involved parties with a summary of investigation findings. The University sent Chu a letter signed Nov. 27 by Zumwalt containing an abbreviated version of the findings that led to Fliegelman’s suspension.
Chu said she initially requested the full report to learn more about a detail in Zumwalt’s letter to her regarding a pornographic video.
“I wanted the full report to know more about this detail that jarred me so much… it was this new detail out of nowhere after 17, 18 years. It was like the story suddenly changed,” Chu said.
Chu said she does not intend to take legal action against the University.
“I want information; I don’t need a legal viewpoint,” Chu said.
In seeking the full report of the investigation, Chu expressed that she hopes to hold Stanford accountable to a higher standard of transparency.
According to University spokesperson Lisa Lapin, Fliegelman estimated his financial losses as a result of the situation to be approximately $1 million. Chu said the $1 million sum is coincidentally equal to Fliegelman’s purported losses as a result of financial sanction imposed against him.
Chu first posted her request on Twitter on Jan. 25, 2018. She wrote online: “Dear @Stanford: Here is my reply to your silence. I will give up access to the report on the investigation of my rape if you do the following: Donate one million dollars to @RAINN01 [Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network] on behalf, in honor, in the name of all survivors of sexual violence. This would help heal wounds.”
When she did not receive a reply from Stanford, Chu made her proposal to Zumwalt in person. Zumwalt denied the request and later told The Daily that Stanford invests significantly in sexual assault prevention initiatives on campus.
“In denying Ms. Chu’s request that the University donate $1 million to RAINN, we explained that the University is spending millions of dollars a year for education, training, support and adjudication regarding sexual assault at the University, focusing our efforts towards our goal of zero sexual assault at Stanford,” Zumwalt wrote in an email to The Daily.
Chu said that Stanford’s denial of her request made her feel personally slighted.
“That does feel like a slap, and I use that cliche maybe because of what it has meant all along, because it felt like a physical assault to my body, that denial,” Chu said.
However, Zumwalt and Provost Drell expressed their intent to make personal donations to RAINN in Chu’s honor.
In confirming her commitment to donate, Drell expressed support for RAINN.
“I am impressed by the organization, and it is a cause that is very important to me,” she said.
In a Feb. 25 email to Drell, Zumwalt and Stanford English chair Alex Woloch, Chu thanked Drell and Zumwalt for their donation to RAINN. “Your generosity is moving,” she wrote. “Your recognition is healing.”
She also wrote in the same email, “I look forward to visiting a campus that is free of sexual violence. I look forward to a time when the Stanford English Department can publicly acknowledge its troubled history.”
Contact Alex Tsai at aotsai ‘at’ stanford.edu.