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Letter to the Editor: Economics visiting scholar

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I am writing to register my disgust that the University and its Economics Department have determined that a registered sex offender is an appropriate visiting scholar (“Econ visiting scholar, a registered sex offender, permitted to complete term as scheduled,” from The Daily on May 29).

I write you in a state of distress. Since seeing this Daily headline as I walked into my office this morning, I have been unable to think of much else, overwhelmed with feelings of disgust, anger and disappointment. With an increased heart rate and racing thoughts, I’ve struggled to focus on anything except my rage around this story and my own feelings of fear. In other words, my PTSD symptoms, hard-earned from a sexual assault my own freshman year of college, are triggered. 

The Daily quoted the following statement from University spokesperson E.J. Miranda on the decision to retain Kurt Mitman: “Providing a safe environment for all members of our community… is an obligation we take deeply seriously… In assessing the extent to which a person or situation poses a risk to the safety of our community, we must evaluate the full set of facts available. In addition, our objective cannot be to re-punish someone for past behavior, but rather to make an informed judgment about the actual safety threat posed to the community.”

I sit here aghast at Stanford’s continued official communication in support of rape culture on campus. I am reminded of the statement Miranda issued last year, after the University rejected quotations chosen by Emily Doe, the woman assaulted by Brock Turner, for the memorial plaque meant to commemorate and educate around her assault. In that case, The Daily wrote that “University spokesperson E.J. Miranda said that Doe’s selections ‘were inconsistent with a contemplative space,’ and that one of them was potentially triggering to sexual assault survivors.”

No, what’s potentially triggering is keeping a registered sex offender convicted of raping a 14-year-old boy on campus as a visiting professor in the Economics Department. That is the reason I had to stop teaching today to cry in the hallway. That is the reason I had to turn the lights off and cry under my desk between teaching and meeting with students. That is the reason I am writing this letter right now, instead of responding to student work. 

Just because Kurt Mitman does not rape another 14-year-old boy on this campus does not mean that his presence has no impact on our community’s safety. Mitman has one month left of an unpaid position and the University still lacks the courage to say, “Dude, you gotta go.” This cowardice is a testament to the University’s record of promoting and protecting rape culture as official policy, and a message to everyone on this campus that sexual predators are welcome here. I consider his continued welcome a Title IX violation, since Mitman’s presence creates a gender-based hostile environment for Stanford community members. I know I feel Stanford’s hostility today. 

— Tessa Brown, Ph.D. Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric

Contact Tessa Brown at tessabrown ‘at’ stanford.edu.