By Elena Shao
A second plaque, unauthorized by the University, has appeared at the site of Chanel Miller’s sexual assault by former Stanford swimmer and convicted felon Brock Turner, which has since been re-landscaped into a contemplative garden. Like the first plaque, the new one reads: “You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.”
The new plaque was installed on Tuesday morning by a senior undergraduate, who was granted anonymity because she didn’t want her name linked with the plaque, given the wider student support for Miller. She told The Daily that she had been planning to install the plaque for about a month after ordering it online. She attributed her timing in part to the Faculty Senate’s unanimous approval of a resolution in support of Miller’s right to approve the quote on the plaque.
But, she added that what pushed her over the edge in putting up the plaque Tuesday morning was the recent uptick in sexual assault and aggravated assault reports that campus has seen over the last couple weeks.
“The point in having a plaque there is to reduce fear about talking about [sexual assault], to reduce stigma,” she added. “Because that’s what keeps people silent.”
The quote on the new plaque, taken from Miller’s victim impact statement, was etched onto another plaque, also unauthorized by the University, on a bench in the same area by an unknown individual in late October. University spokesperson Brad Hayward wrote in a statement to The Daily that the plaques will both remain in place while Provost Persis Drell continues the review process. He added that Drell is “fully considering the input provided by the university community.”
Before Miller withdrew from the quote selection process, the words were her second suggestion for the plaque that the University also rejected along with her first, citing victim sensitivity concerns. Provost Persis Drell explained in a March 2018 “Notes from the Quad” post that the decision was made after after consulting with sexual violence counselors and survivors of sexual assault, and believing that the quotes would “not be supportive in a healing space for survivors.”
That explanation has not been sufficient for a large portion of the student body, whose efforts to honor Miller’s voice, identity and wishes have spanned from petitions to include her book in the Three Books Program, to solidarity rallies, to the creation of an augmented reality app that visually projected the quote at the site of the sexual assault.
Stanford Law professor and activist Michele Dauber, a family friend of Miller’s, has previously emphasized in a March 2018 statement to The Daily that Miller’s second choice of quote, the one now on the plaques, contained no graphic content, and that it is often considered to be “the emblematic quote of her powerful victim statement.”
“Students taking matters into their own hands this way is a direct result of the poor leadership that Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Persis Drell have shown,” she told The Daily on Monday regarding the first unauthorized plaque, “by reneging on their promise to Chanel Miller and by refusing to correct that mistake even when the entire student and faculty leadership has asked them to do it.”
The student who put up the plaque on Tuesday said the fact that the University has not removed either plaque is “a step forward.” She sees these two plaques as temporary, though, and wants to see Stanford take action.
“The most important thing is learning,” she said. “If [the University] learns how damaging silence is, then there’s no hard feelings.”
Contact Elena Shao at eshao98 ‘at’ stanford.edu.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the student who placed the second plaque was a junior. She is a senior. The Daily regrets this error.