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Phi Psi event with Palantir co-founder cancelled following backlash over 2012 sexual assault allegations

HOLDEN FOREMAN / The Stanford Daily

Phi Kappa Psi (Phi Psi) house staff has officially cancelled an event with Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale ’03 that was scheduled to be held at the Phi Psi house on Thursday at 5 p.m. The cancellation follows backlash from concerned students regarding 2012 allegations of sexual assault, gender violence and sexual harassment, among other charges, against Lonsdale by Stanford alumna Elise Clougherty ’13, who sued him in Jan. 2015.

Lonsdale’s event was marketed as a “Dinner Discussion” on public policy, technology and entrepreneurship, according to the event flyer.

Event organizer Joey Hurlocker ’19 — a former fellow at Lonsdale’s venture capital firm 8VC — told The Daily he “was contacted by a member of Joe’s staff interested in having such an event.” Hurlocker added that he was unaware of “the degree of concern regarding Joe Lonsdale.”

“I recognize the unintended consequences of my actions, despite my best intentions, and apologize for those consequences which have negatively impacted others,” he wrote in a statement to The Daily.

He added in a later statement that, while he “was the sole organizer” of the event, he directed “a couple people to help.”

Lonsdale was subject to a 10-year campus ban under Stanford’s Title IX policy in 2014, after a University Title IX investigation into Clougherty’s allegations concluded that he had sexually abused her throughout a year-long relationship while she was an undergraduate and he was her mentor for the class ENGR 145: “Technology Entrepreneurship.” In response, Lonsdale filed a countersuit for defamation in June 2015.

The ban was subsequently lifted in Nov. 2015 as a result of “new evidence that came to light during litigation,” then-University spokesperson Lisa Lapin wrote in an email to The Daily at the time. The respective lawsuits were settled in court under terms not disclosed to the public, according to The New York Times. Stanford’s ban reversal spurred criticism of Title IX’s investigation and adjudication of rape accusations on University campuses.

Despite the reversal, Stanford did not drop all accusations of misconduct against Lonsdale, as he is still subject to a 10-year ban from mentoring and teaching. He currently serves as a board member for the Stanford Global Projects Center.

“Because Mr. Lonsdale and Ms. Clougherty engaged in a relationship and did not disclose it as per Stanford’s Consensual Relationships policy, Mr. Lonsdale has agreed that he will not challenge the temporary mentoring and teaching suspension that was imposed,” Lapin wrote to The Daily in 2015.

Phi Psi Community Manager (CM) Tony Moller confirmed to The Daily that the event was cancelled Monday after the fraternity became aware that it had not been approved by Phi Psi staff. Though some fraternity members knew of the event, many others were unaware until a series of social media posts criticizing the talk were published on Monday by Theresa Gao ’20, Jasmine Sun ’21 and Sasha Perigo ’17, hours before the event’s cancellation.

Phi Psi is expected to discuss the event and its cancellation Monday night at its pre-scheduled chapter meeting.

“The event was originally geared toward mentoring entrepreneurship, and we deeply regret that the [organizers] didn’t apply more intentionality to their choice of speaker,” Moller wrote, adding that Phi Psi’s staff began talks to cancel the event immediately after social media backlash emerged.

“I’m not denying his right to free speech, but it’s a slap in the face to survivors for Phi Psi to host Lonsdale despite these allegations,” Sun wrote in a Tweet. “The consent workshops mean nothing if you continue to give platform to abusers & amplify them as role models and mentors.”

Fraternity members were told on Monday not to share screenshots of their conversation about the event’s cancellation, one Phi Psi member told The Daily, referring to the fraternity’s group chat as “explosive” in the hours before the cancellation. Phi Psi members also deleted comments they had made on Gao’s Facebook post criticizing the event.

Lonsdale is still scheduled to appear at a May 21 event hosted by the Stanford Federalist Society at Stanford Law School.

This article has been updated with additional comment from Joey Hurlocker.

Contact Ellie Bowen at ebowen ‘at’ stanford.edu and Holden Foreman at hs4man21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Ellie Bowen

Ellie Bowen

Ellie Bowen is a junior from Grand Rapids, Michigan, studying Symbolic Systems and English Lit. She works as managing editor of news for Vol. 255. When she’s not spending inordinate amounts of time at the Daily building, Ellie loves to read National Geographic, play the piano, and defiantly use oxford commas.

Holden Foreman

Holden Foreman

Holden Foreman '21 is The Daily's Executive Editor. He hails from the city of St. Louis, Missouri and is studying electrical engineering, computer science and economics. Contact him at hs4man21 'at' stanford.edu.