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Op Ed: They always do their best

Former Crothers staffers respond to allegations against the dorm’s Resident Fellows

Yesterday, The Stanford Daily published an op-ed and an article outlining claims of employment discrimination by a current Crothers staffer against Crothers Resident Fellows Professor Stephen Stedman and Corinne Thomas.

The staffer’s claims of discrimination are wholly inconsistent with our experiences as residential staff in Crothers.

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Ben Chao ’17

I was an ATA in Crothers in the 2016-2017 school year, and I also struggled with mental illness. In late October 2017, I was hospitalized at Stanford Hospital, where I stayed for 10 days. Months of intensive therapy followed my hospitalization.

During my time in the hospital, Steve and Corinne visited me in the ward. They demonstrated nothing but genuine care and concern for my well-being. When I asked about my responsibilities as an ATA, they told me not to worry and to take care of myself first and foremost.

When my hospitalization ended, I was immediately worried about how Steve, Corinne and ResEd would respond. I worried they would think I was no longer capable to serve in my position. I was wrong.

Steve and Corinne quickly reassured me that they had full faith in my ability to continue as an ATA. In fact, they offered the idea that I would be more effective as a staffer because of my experiences, as I could help residents facing similar challenges navigate the resources and support offered by Stanford. Steve and Corinne only asked that I reach out to them if I ever felt overwhelmed so that they could better support me. When I took them up on that offer and went to talk with them throughout the rest of the year, I only ever received their whole-hearted kindness and compassion.

I was never stigmatized by Steve and Corinne because of my mental illness. In fact, I believe they saw me as an asset to the dorm staff because I continued to perform my duties as an ATA professionally. Whatever my challenges were, Steve and Corinne never believed that my mental illness diminished my ability to help foster community in Crothers. In fact, after I graduated, Steve recommended me for a job without solicitation, demonstrating his faith in me despite my history of mental illness. Steve’s consistent mentorship and concern for my well-being during this difficult time are among the many reasons why I joined Steve’s colleagues and students in nominating him for the Dinkelspiel Award.

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Whitney McIntosh ’17

As Ben’s RA and co-staffer in Crothers last year, I supported Ben prior to, during and after his time in the hospital. When I first went to speak with Steve and Corinne, they listened to my recount with incredible consideration and grace. They made sure I knew that their home was available to both Ben and me if we ever needed support. Out of concern for Ben and his privacy, they then established their own dialogue with Ben from that point forward. I was not surprised when they visited Ben in hospital and when I heard that they had offered for Ben to come to their house for tea if ever he needed to talk.

It was and continues to be my impression that Steve and Corinne judged Ben’s ability to continue to staff based on his work as an ATA, not the fact that he has had issues with his mental health. Throughout the year, I witnessed how Ben never let his mental health problems affect his ATA duties, but rather fulfilled them with great poise and acumen. He brought charisma and warmth to all his endeavors while staffing, particularly when we worked together with the students in our hall.

In all my experiences of Steve and Corinne, they have continuously demonstrated empathy for the challenges students face, not only in their academic work at Stanford, but in their personal lives. Their first instinct has never been to judge but, rather, to lend a helping hand.

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Our experiences in no way invalidate the experiences others may have had with ResEd regarding mental health. We’re not trying to defend practices that, intentionally or not, have victimized and taken advantage of students with mental illness. We have a long way to go in creating a better system for mental health on campus.

But mentors like Steve and Corinne who have an intimate understanding of the unique challenges students face and demonstrate extraordinary kindness and empathy for students are not part of the problem. For us, they were necessary parts of the solution.

 

Ben Chao ’17
Whitney McIntosh ’17

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