To distinguish between anonymous sources with identical gender pronouns, names of two individuals in this article have been changed. These students are identified by the first-name pseudonyms Matthew and James.
They met in the fall of 2016 at a party on campus. Matthew was a sophomore undergraduate; James was a master’s student in the same academic department. James was also a Teaching Assistant (TA) for departmental classes that Matthew intended to take and was involved in recruiting for jobs for which Matthew hoped to apply.
An asymmetric power dynamic defined their relationship from the start, both sexually and professionally, Matthew recalls. On several occasions, he said, he was guilted into sex. Matthew also recalls an event he describes as harassment, and says he felt emotionally and verbally abused in the relationship.
The Title IX Office ultimately ruled that these allegations did not rise to the level of official “Prohibited Sexual Conduct,” which includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, relationship violence and stalking. However, this definition makes no explicit reference to psychological, emotional or verbal relationship abuse, even though global health organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) characterize intimate partner violence as including emotional and psychological abuse as well as controlling behaviors.
Early in their relationship, Matthew introduced James to a campus dance group that Matthew belonged to — Common Origins, which is Stanford’s only non-audition urban dance team and one of the largest dance groups on campus. James graduated in 2017 but reportedly continued to participate as an alumnus in the group’s dance practices, social events, performances and elections, despite a Student Activities and Leadership (SAL) policy that prohibits participation by non-students, including alumni.
While the Title IX Office concluded late last summer that Matthew’s case did not merit a formal investigation, both Title IX Coordinator Jill Thomas and Assistant Dean and Associate Director of SAL Ankita Rakhe independently confirmed to him that James had violated SAL’s alumni participation policy.
According to the Office of Community Standards, students may be subject to University discipline for violating official policies and directives. However, Stanford imposed no consequences on Common Origins or its participants, even though SAL’s website includes a list of past actions taken in response to other cases of alleged misconduct and policy violations. And while Stanford cannot formally discipline alumni, it can limit their participation in University programming. It did not do so for James until approximately one year after his graduation.
Given no clear directive from SAL or any other University administrative body on how to respond to the issue, Common Origins’ student leadership attempted to handle it internally up until this year. The resulting group dynamics eventually caused two group members to leave.
As of this fall, the group has been working with SAL to revise its alumni participation policy, which now prohibits alumni from attending official workshops and being in the group, according to co-president Marissa MacAvoy ’20 and social chair Bennett Lewis ’21.
Matthew, who now struggles with anxiety related to seeing James on campus, is currently taking a leave of absence from Stanford. Out of fear of retaliation and for personal safety concerns, he has requested anonymity for both himself and his alleged abuser.
Sophomore year: 2016-17
They first crossed paths in the fall at a party held at Terra, a campus co-op, when James refused to let Matthew into a hallway unless Matthew gave him a kiss, according to Matthew. Although he did not want to, he said, Matthew obliged and kissed James on the cheek, then proceeded onward. The pair did not interact for the rest of the night, but a couple weeks later matched with each other on the popular dating app Tinder.
The two communicated often in the ensuing weeks — over text and on Facebook Messenger, but also in person. Matthew recalls being “happy” about the situation, and said that he considers it his first relationship. Toward the end of fall quarter, the pair began having sex. Matthew describes it as having been consensual at that point.
But by winter quarter of that year, Matthew said, their relationship had begun to fall apart. Matthew says he and James discussed the question of power dynamics, given that he was a student and James was a TA — not in the same class, but still both in the same department. James eventually stopped being a TA, although it remains unclear whether this resulted from their conversation.
That same quarter, Matthew recalls an incident he describes as harassment, during which James insisted on visiting him in his residence despite multiple requests to the contrary. That night, James knocked repeatedly on Matthew’s door and refused to leave for an extended period of time.
Matthew also recalls that their relationship became “very sex-based” and said that he is unsure whether the sex was truly consensual.
“In terms of us doing consensual sex stuff, I don’t know where being guilted into having sex falls,” he said. “There were multiple points when I didn’t want to have sex with him, but he said things along the lines of, ‘I don’t feel good when you don’t want to have sex with me,’ … and just stuff that made me feel really guilty.”
Matthew added that when he performed oral sex on James, James would often push down on his head to the point where he suffered painful bruises in the back of his throat.
James declined to respond to The Daily’s repeated requests for comment.
At the time, Matthew also belonged to two student groups: Common Origins and another, much smaller student group whose name The Daily is withholding to protect Matthew’s identity. Matthew introduced James into both groups that quarter.
Their relationship eventually ended in April of 2017 when Matthew broke things off. That spring, James graduated from his master’s program.
Junior year: 2017-18
Matthew says that in the fall of 2017, he crossed paths with James — who by that point was no longer a student — several times through student group and community center events. At the time, Matthew was unaware of SAL’s official membership policy for non-students, which states that while non-students “may participate in public events,” they “may not serve as leaders, become members, engage in decision-making or participate in regular activities on behalf of the group; nor can they represent the group or the University.”
In response to one instance wherein James attended a Thanksgiving dinner that Matthew hosted for only Common Origins members, Matthew said that his desire to promote inclusivity as a leader precluded him from speaking out against it.
“I was part of leadership at the time and was like … ‘I can’t put my personal feelings in front of my role in leadership to build together a strong community,’” he said. “That was half the reason why I didn’t speak out the majority of the time, because I was part of leadership and I wasn’t allowed to say that this person makes me feel uncomfortable.”
However, a former Common Origins member disputed this claim, and said that James was already planning a Thanksgiving event on campus before Matthew announced he would be hosting a similar event. The member says that when the two of them found out, they combined their events into a single one, which led to some confusion about whether or not attendance was restricted to Common Origins members.
In the winter, Matthew told the co-president of Common Origins at the time — Nathan Lee Ph.D. ’20 — that he felt uncomfortable being around James. According to Matthew, Lee made accommodations so the two would not perform in dances together.
Over spring break, Matthew sought help for panic attacks and anxiety from Stanford’s Confidential Support Team (CST), which offers free and confidential support to students impacted by intimate partner abuse, sexual or gender-based harassment and more.
“I remember talking to a counselor [at CST] and the counselor saying, ‘If you look at all this evidence and imagine this happening to one of your friends, what would you say?,’” Matthew recalled. “And I said, ‘Oh, well, it’s abuse.’ And I remember thinking … ‘Oh, my God — it’s abuse.’ And that was kind of what kick-started everything.”
According to Matthew, his CST counselor did not explicitly classify his situation as abuse. However, he said, they showed him an informational diagram about dating violence and abuse that led him to conclude that the behavior constituted abuse.
Later in the spring, Matthew helped organize a Common Origins mixer in a common lounge area of his residence, some floors away from his individual room. James attended the event.
“I ended up running to my dorm,” he said. “I took down my door sign, I closed my door and I locked it and I had a panic attack.”
The next day, Matthew emailed his Resident Fellow to request that an email be sent out to the entire dorm about not allowing strangers into the residence. The Resident Fellow sent such an email, but the directive was not well-enforced, Matthew said.
“This is Stanford,” Matthew said. “Everybody lets every person into the dorm, even if they look old.”
The Resident Fellow did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment.
That same quarter, Matthew spoke in detail with his Resident Assistant (RA) about his situation, not realizing that RAs are mandatory reporters who must report Title IX-related incidents involving their residents.
“I was just like, wait — I don’t want anybody to get in trouble,” he said. “I was scared that [Common Origins] would have to follow the same path as [the Stanford] Band and have to jump through a lot of loopholes to get back to where they were, and I didn’t want to be the one who hurt Common Origins.”
In 2015, Stanford’s marching band was subject to travel and alcohol bans after violating University policies regarding alcohol, controlled substances, sexual harassment and hazing. The Band was also suspended for a majority of the 2016-2017 school year for violating these bans.
Following their discussion, Matthew’s RA filed a report. In May 2018, Title IX Outreach and Student Resources Manager Miranda Tuttle contacted Matthew for the first time; numerous meetings between the two followed. In these meetings, Matthew sought to clarify general questions about the Title IX Administrative Process, which is used in cases where the responding party is not a student.
On June 1, 2018, Tuttle suggested that Matthew take up an “informal intervention option — a letter [sent to James] from and/or conversation with the Title IX Coordinator stating that a concern was brought to our office and that while at this time you have not chosen to pursue a formal investigation you did request some assistance from our office,” she explained via email.
Matthew emailed her back to say he’d think about it.
Inside Common Origins
Meanwhile, Common Origins leadership experienced significant disquiet in determining how to handle the situation. Part of the issue stemmed from complaints about Matthew’s behavior rather than James’.
“As a … leadership team, our involvement in the ‘situation’ began when we became aware that multiple members of [Common Origins] felt uncomfortable, unwelcome and in some cases excluded from the team’s social events due to [Matthew’s] actions as a leader and member,” a former Common Origins leader wrote in an email to The Daily.
According to the former leader, Matthew “exercised irresponsible leadership, including making inappropriate comments in the group messenger chat, repeatedly demanding to use leadership-only resources to advance his election campaign and breaking a well-known campus safety law while publicly representing [Common Origins].” The former leader declined to clarify these charges, including which inappropriate comments Matthew reportedly made and which law he allegedly broke.
But in response to the former leader’s allegations, Matthew said that several other leadership members also sent such “inappropriate comments” in the group chat, and that no one confronted him about his messages. He also said that he did not demand to use leadership-only resources, but rather asked multiple people separately about whether he could send out a survey to gauge how much members enjoyed the group’s social events that year. He ultimately did not send the survey after the leadership members he consulted discouraged him from doing so.
The “well-known campus safety law” in question was the University’s directive for a dry campus during the annual Admit Weekend for incoming freshmen, he said.
“I had a University-defined singular standard drink before I went to table [for Common Origins] during the spring quarter activities fair,” Matthew said in an interview with The Daily. “If I had known that it was a sober space I would not have done it.”
When confronted about his actions, the former leader alleged that Matthew “refused to engage in productive conversation.”
Matthew said that he “had multiple conversations with the rest of Common Origins leadership,” and while he “owned up to” criticisms that he was “too boisterous,” his response was less conciliatory toward actions he believed were out of protection for his own safety — such as asking Common Origins members to keep James away from him.
Later, the former leader added, Matthew made several requests for leadership to remove James from the group. The member said that Common Origins leadership felt that managing the situation had by then moved “beyond the scope of [their] dance leadership roles,” and so reached out to an administrator at the Asian-American Activities Center for help.
The member declined to reveal the identity of the administrator or the nature of the advice the group received. An account of this series of events was corroborated by another former member of Common Origins leadership. According to Matthew, the administrator was Jerald Adamos, associate director of the Asian-American Activities Center.
“When [Matthew] proved uncooperative and unwilling to engage in productive conversation … other members of Common Origins leadership approached the [Asian-American Activities Center] for advice,” the second member said. “Had there been, for example, serious concerns about a member’s safety, we likely would have focused more and earlier on going through official administrative channels, but given the circumstances, we felt it best to try to manage things internally first.”
Adamos did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment.
The second member said that Matthew told her on several occasions that he originally did not want to use James’ alumni status as reason for removing him from the team out of concern for other alumni and non-students who might be affected by proxy.
“At no point [last year] was [James’] alumni status a factor in how [Common Origins] leaders approached or attempted to handle the situation,” she wrote in a statement to The Daily. “Obviously, I can’t deny that in the past, [Common Origins] — like many student groups at Stanford — has not enforced SAL’s alumni policy.”
She also said that the group’s leadership was made aware “early on” that a Title IX report had been filed for Matthew’s case and that they “trusted Title IX to do their work well and did not want to interfere in their proceedings.” The member declined to respond to The Daily’s follow-up questions about when the group first learned of the report.
According to University spokesperson EJ Miranda, student group leaders are not mandatory reporters for Title IX concerns. Therefore, they do not receive the same Title IX-related training that RAs receive.
Late last spring, Lee and the second member wrote to Matthew that they would not be returning to the group in the following year as a result of stress they experienced while managing his situation.
“We’ve been repeatedly acknowledging the mutual ‘stress’ involved in discussing your story while maintaining the priorities that sustain [Common Origins] as a dance team, but my own experience goes beyond that,” Lee wrote to Matthew via Facebook Messenger. “I can say with complete certainty that your choice of actions in handling the difficult conversations of this quarter have single-handedly made [Common Origins] feel like a place where I can no longer continue to lead, teach or even simply continue to be.”
Lee did not specify to The Daily which of Matthew’s choices he perceived as problematic.
Lee continued, “I want to emphasize that for me this difficulty comes solely from the incredibly deep frustration and constant strain of your repeated requests for a ‘resolution’ we cannot provide.”
The second member’s message echoed Lee’s, blaming Matthew for “single-handedly” damaging the team.
“The choreographers have had to sacrifice work, sleep and other relationships to carry on a [bullshit] ‘dialogue’ with you that seems to largely consist of you relentlessly repeating the same request, when we have already made it clear we cannot provide the ‘resolution’ you want,” the second member wrote.
The second member added in their messages to Matthew, “You admitted that what you are afraid of is the other member trying to talk to you, and he seemed to agree with me that he values me enough to respect my request for him not to contact you in any way — a request I made knowing all too well that he already has no intention of trying to contact you … He has made it abundantly clear … that he wants nothing to do with you — you are the one dragging this struggle out beyond all reason.”
In an email to The Daily, the second member wrote that while Matthew’s situation was not the only factor in their decision to leave Common Origins, “dealing with him did make [their] last months in the group extraordinarily stressful.”
According to Matthew, the “requests” and “resolution” referenced by the members pertained to his requests that James leave the group. However, Lee wrote in an email to The Daily that the “resolution” that he stated leadership members could not provide “involves a broad scope,” and included concerns beyond removing James from the group. In a separate email to The Daily, the second member expressed similar sentiments.
“One major concern was Matthew’s repeated requests for leadership to facilitate a one-sided sharing of the situation with all members of leadership, some of whom had at the time been less directly involved, and to ensure that the one-sided sharing happened before the spring 2018 elections,” Lee wrote.
Lee added that Matthew’s requests “seemed geared toward removing his own responsibility (for his action toward other members, often unrelated to James) from conversations with leadership.”
After receiving the messages from Lee and the other former group leader, who by then had completed their leadership tenures, Matthew engaged in self-harm, cutting himself. The content of the messages was the primary reason behind his self harm, he said. This instance was the first and only time he has self-harmed in his life.
Although last year’s Common Origins co-presidents, Lee and Kristy Duong ’19, did not respond to The Daily’s multiple requests for comment, MacAvoy wrote in an email to The Daily that, “It was not within the scope of our leadership on a dance team to solve this conflict and thus, we have continuously pointed [Matthew] towards Stanford’s resources.”
However, Matthew said that he was never pointed to any University resources by Common Origins leaders.
“All I was asked was, ‘Are you seeing a therapist?’ and other similar questions,” he wrote in an email to The Daily. “I was never directed to the [Asian American Activities Center], the CST, [the Office of Sexual Assault & Relationship Abuse Education & Response], any place on campus.”
MacAvoy did not respond to a follow-up question from The Daily asking which University resources the organization pointed Matthew toward.
At the school year’s end, James attended Common Origins’ elections for its 2018-19 leadership cohort. There, he asked all candidates to respond to the question of how they would respond if they were in a relationship with another group member that ended badly, which Matthew says was implicitly referring to the fallout from their relationship. However, according to Lee and another group member, the question of how a candidate would navigate a difficult personal relationship with another group leader was a standard one that multiple attendees posed throughout the election process.
Shortly after the elections, Matthew met with Rakhe. According to Matthew, Rakhe told him that it is a violation of SAL policies for alumni to be allowed to participate in any student group. However, Matthew says Rakhe neither brought up any consequences of violating the policy nor issued any consequence to James, despite his having participated in the group’s dance practices, social events, performances and elections as an alumnus.
Rakhe declined to respond to The Daily’s request for comment regarding this article. When a Daily reporter scheduled an in-person meeting with Rakhe via an online form available to all Stanford students, Rakhe informed her at the time of the meeting that it had been canceled. Rakhe did not cite a reason for canceling the meeting and refused to respond to the reporter’s questioning on general SAL policies, deferring instead to Miranda.
In early June, not long after the new leadership members were elected, Matthew used a Slack messaging group containing all Common Origins leadership members to request a discussion about his situation.
“I know that dealing with this has been very stressful to old [leadership members] and so I think it would be helpful for everyone to reach some conclusion as soon as possible,” he wrote. “This would allow us to move forward and focus on other things.”
MacAvoy responded to him with a request to delay the discussion to allow new leadership “the space to bond and get moving in the right direction before diving into what at this point is largely history and is less relevant to their coming jobs in leadership.”
She further asked that Matthew “slow down and think carefully about how to present this information in order for [it] to be useful for new [leadership] moving forward instead of a burden they have to digest during their very first exciting days on [leadership].”
“I do not see a problem with thinking about this more during the summer after the stress of finals and end of year planning is over,” she added, and requested that the conversation be moved out of the group chat.
Matthew wrote back, “I have felt throughout this entire quarter that this entire situation has been a ‘Oh, we’ll put it off until later … and later … and later … until it disappears.’ I’m not going to let this disappear.”
He added that he wanted the new Common Origins leadership to be fully aware of the details of his situation and to make a decision together. MacAvoy replied that she was too busy to respond.
According to Matthew, MacAvoy did not contact him again until fall quarter of this year.
MacAvoy did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment.
In July, Matthew decided to proceed with Tuttle’s suggestion of sending a letter requesting that James voluntarily stay away from certain areas of campus and cease participation in several student groups, including Common Origins. The letter was sent to James via email on July 19, 2018 by former Title IX Coordinator Catherine Glaze ’80 J.D. ’85. Glaze recently retired and was replaced by current Title IX Coordinator Jill Thomas.
For a week, Matthew received no update from the Title IX office, so he reached out to Glaze to inquire about the status of the letter and whether James had confirmed its receipt.
“Unfortunately, I have not heard back yet,” Glaze responded the same day. “I was not precise in asking for a response, saying ‘within the next week.’ So, I am still hopeful that I will hear today or tomorrow. I will certainly let you know.”
Worried that the message had not gone through, Matthew prompted Glaze to send a follow-up message and to request confirmation of receipt.
“I would be happy to reach out again if I don’t hear,” Glaze responded. “It occurs to me that I used his alumni email address for the letter. Do you happen to have a Gmail or other non-Stanford address for him? If so, I’ll reach out to that one as well.”
On July 30, Glaze finally resent the message and asked James to confirm that he had received her email. Matthew emailed Glaze twice more in the days that followed to inquire about the status of the message, and she responded that she had not heard back. On Aug. 5, Matthew asked a friend to independently reach out to James about checking his email.
On Aug. 6, according to correspondence obtained by The Daily, Glaze emailed Matthew with news that James had agreed to abide by the terms of the informal request. Two days later, James met with Tuttle, who wrote in an email to Matthew that the purpose of the meeting was “to explain to [James] what this letter means (and what it isn’t, i.e. a university directive nor indication that the University has found him to be responsible of violating policy).”
“I didn’t find [James] to be defensive, nor seeking loopholes, and at this time he has not given any indication that he plans to not voluntarily abide by the request outlined in the letter,” Tuttle wrote.
However, on Aug. 9 James revoked that agreement, stating that he did “not feel comfortable agreeing to the letter,” according to an email from Glaze that referred to James by his (real) name. She added that she was retiring soon and told him to direct all future correspondence to Tuttle.
“Thank you for the update,” Matthew wrote back. “Can I ask that all future emails use ‘the Responding Party’ instead of the person’s name please? It … causes me a great deal of stress.”
Glaze did not respond to Matthew’s message expressing concerns about James’ real name being used in their email correspondence.
At that point, Matthew decided to open a formal investigation. In August, he met with Title IX Investigator Sophia Khan for an official interview to determine whether the office would proceed with a formal investigation. However, that option was ultimately deemed unsuitable for his case.
“During that process, it was really hard,” he said. “I tried to give her as much evidence as I could. I remember at one point describing the fact that he would take my head and push it down on his penis and her saying, ‘Did you ever say ‘no’?’ Not, did I ever say ‘yes,’ but did I ever say ‘no.’ And me saying, ‘No, but I also never said yes.’”
He continued, “And then her also asking, ‘Do you think you could have gotten out of that situation if you had really wanted to?’ And I remember feeling very victim-shamed for having to answer those questions like that and me being like, ‘No, but also he shouldn’t have done that in the first place.’ [The questions she was asking] felt biased.”
Khan did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment.
Matthew returned home at the end of summer, but met again with Khan over video conference. She reportedly informed him that the Title IX Office, which at the time was headed by interim Title IX Coordinator Lauren Schoenthaler, had concluded that a formal investigation had been deemed inappropriate for his case. In an official outcome letter sent to Matthew in late October, Thomas reiterated that decision.
“After reviewing the allegations, I determined that the Title IX Office cannot proceed with an investigation because the claims you’ve made, taken as true, do not rise to the level of a violation of University Title IX policy, and thus, a formal investigation is not appropriate under the circumstances,” Thomas wrote.
She added that while the Office understood that he “experienced harm during and after [his] relationship with the individual about whom [he] complained,” they did not find the individual “responsible for engaging in Prohibited Sexual Conduct.”
According to Stanford’s Title IX Administrative Policy Guide, “Prohibited Sexual Conduct” refers to sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, relationship (dating) violence and stalking that is “student-related” or “connected to a University program or activity,” either on or off campus.
Thomas did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the matter.
“I feel like I was given a false sense of hope [from the meetings with Title IX],” Matthew said. “When I talked to [Tuttle], she said, ‘This sounds like it would go under sexual harassment,’ because he did a bunch of stuff to me and the year prior had stalked me into my dorm. She said, ‘This sounds like sexual harassment and definitely something that the Title IX Office can investigate.’”
Stanford’s Administrative Guide makes no explicit mention about the range of the Title IX Office’s purview in cases of psychological, emotional or verbal relationship abuse.
Tuttle did not respond to The Daily’s repeated requests for comment.
According to Associated Students of Stanford University President and Title IX activist Shanta Katipamula ’19, emotional abuse alone is not a Title IX violation, except in cases when it may be considered sexual harassment. Unlike sexual assault, sexual harassment and other types of misconduct, emotional abuse is also not a criminal violation and so has no legal recourse, she added.
However, the CDC defines intimate partner violence as including not only physical and sexual violence but also emotional abuse, psychological abuse and controlling behaviors.
“One thing we know from research is that sexual assault and intimate partner violence generally occur together, and we need to stop thinking of them as separate categories since they are not,” said Stanford Law School professor and sexual assault activist Michele Dauber.
Dauber added that while the Title IX Office may not have explicit policies that cover these types of relationship abuse, the Fundamental Standard — which is the University’s official code of conduct for students — may be invoked.
“I believe that it would clearly violate the Fundamental Standard to subject anyone to any kind of abuse,” Dauber said. “Thus, I believe that if someone was abusing a partner mentally, emotionally, financially or verbally it could, if severe enough, rise to the level of a violation and could certainly be investigated as a potential violation.”
Beyond uncertainties regarding abuse, Thomas wrote in a September email to James that while the Office would not be proceeding with a formal Title IX investigation, they had found him to be in violation of SAL’s non-student membership policy.
“I am writing to advise you that Stanford student groups are for current students, and we ask that you respect [Matthew’s] space in student groups,” she wrote. “While we appreciate your support as an alumnus, you are not welcome to participate in any student groups as a member, as per the policy.”
According to University spokesperson EJ Miranda, SAL and the Title IX office work together to address situations where concerns about sexual harassment or sexual violence impact a student group. However, it remains unclear whether any formal consequence for this violation — either from SAL or from Title IX — was ever issued.
No administrators from SAL, Title IX or otherwise responded to The Daily’s request for comment on this matter.
Although SAL’s webpage on the Fundamental Standard is currently “under construction,” the Office of Community Standards’ site states that students may be subject to University discipline for acts including “violation of a University policy” and “violation of a specific University directive.” The site adds that while there is no standard penalty for violating the Fundamental Standard, past penalties have included formal warnings and community service.
However, the Fundamental Standard applies only to Stanford students, not alumni, Miranda said. While the University may limit access to programs, it cannot undertake formal discipline against alumni.
According to SAL’s website, cases of “alleged misconduct and violations of University policies and practices” are reviewed by either SAL or the Office of Community Standards. Administrative actions that have been invoked in the past include “community service, event cancellation, return of University funding … loss of University privileges including University recognition” and more — but it is unknown whether any of these were enforced in James’ case.
According to MacAvoy and Lewis, Common Origins is currently working with Matthew and SAL to revise its constitution and the terms of its alumni participation policy.
“Alumni can no longer attend our official workshops, nor can they be members of [the group],” Lewis wrote in an email to The Daily.
On Oct. 3, MacAvoy also wrote in a message to Matthew that James would no longer be performing with the group given his alumni status.
“I now understand that community members are not allowed on [Stanford] teams which is [unfortunate] for many of our alums who have danced with us for years,” she wrote. “[James] knows to take a step back and will not be performing with us anymore per Stanford’s rules about non-students.”
According to Matthew, though, alumni are still allowed to perform in a designated “alumni set” at the group’s annual Breaking Ground dance showcase tomorrow, and are also allowed to attend the showcase’s after-party, which is open to all performers.
In an Oct. 6 email, Rakhe also told Matthew that she and SAL’s Associate Dean and Director Nanci Howe had met with MacAvoy and Common Origins co-president Kathy Liu ’21 and that “the workshops should just be open to students moving forward.”
However, Lewis added that policies regarding alumni participation in the group’s social events have been more “complicated” to navigate. Some social events will be closed to alumni, while other more informal social gatherings will be open to them.
SAL’s current membership policy allows non-students to participate in “public events,” but not to “become members, engage in decision-making or participate in regular activities on behalf of the group.” Thus, James — as an alumnus — is allowed to participate in events designated as “public.”
According to Lewis, the policy changes “haven’t exactly been easy to get used to,” given that alumni have historically played a large mentorship role within Common Origins. However, he said, “we recognize and respect that they are policies we must enforce and uphold.”
“At points where Stanford has stepped in, we haven’t hesitated to uphold their policies,” Lewis wrote. “I believe we have done the most to be fair and impartial to all parties in this situation, and I believe we have addressed the issue — as student officers — to the best of our abilities.”
In total, Matthew has reached out to over 15 individuals across 10 administrative bodies — including SAL, Title IX, Residential Education, the Office of Sexual Assault & Relationship Abuse Education & Response, the BEAM career center, the Asian-American Activities Center and more — for help regarding his situation. He says that Associate Dean of Students and Director of the Office of Community Standards Mark DiPerna and Interim Associate Vice Provost and Dean of Students Brenda McComb have both informed him that it’s unlikely they can do anything given James’ status as an alumnus.
Other administrators have expressed sympathy and have pointed him to SAL and the Title IX Office; some have also offered to make accommodations for his situation, such as his Resident Fellow’s email directive about allowing strangers into the residence.
Asian-American Activities Center Associate Director Jerald Adamos wrote in an October email to Matthew that he is “working with SAL and other campus partners to help [the Center] better think through what our current practices are that create situations that are similar to what you’re going through.”
Adamos did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment on the specifics of these talks in time for publication. His listed alternate contact, Asian-American Activities Center Assistant Director Latana Taaviseth, declined to comment on his behalf.
Contact Claire Wang at clwang32 ‘at’ stanford.edu.
Editor’s note: If you are a victim of abuse, or are experiencing trauma or thoughts of self harm, there are available resources both on and beyond campus that are reachable 24 hours a day, seven days a week:
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: +1(800)-273-8255
Stanford Counseling and Psychological Services: +1(650)-723-3785
Stanford Confidential Support Team: +1(650)-725-9955
This article has been updated with additional comment from Lee and the anonymous source identified as “Matthew.”
This article has also been updated to indicate that Lee and the anonymous second member of Common Origins did not quit the group, but rather declined to return after their leadership terms ended. This article has been revised to reflect that James’ attendance at the first Common Origins workshop this fall was square with SAL policy, given that it was a public event. The Daily regrets these errors.