By Elena Shao
University administrators are pursuing a plan to install a plaque at a contemplative garden with a quote Chanel Miller initially chose: “You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.”
Miller withdrew from discussions about plans to place a plaque after administrators rejected two of her suggested quotes — including the one they now seek to install — on the grounds that they would “not be supportive in a healing space for survivors.” The garden is at the site of Miller’s sexual assault by former Stanford swimmer and convicted felon Brock Turner.
Provost Persis Drell announced the reversal on Tuesday morning, writing that Stanford has reached out to Miller to seek her permission to use the quote. University spokesperson E.J. Miranda said that while there is no specific timeline for the installation, “it will be as soon as feasible.”
Drell also wrote that in addition to the plaque with Miller’s quote, the University will construct a “site marker” at the entrance of the garden explaining what the site is: “a contemplative space to honor and support survivors a of sexual violence and remind us of our obligations to the safety and wellbeing of all in our community.” The marker will also contain information on how to reach confidential support resources.
However, some students have expressed concern over the “problematic” nature of the University’s decision to use a plaque with Miller’s chosen quote because it is conditional on that second site marker.
The University is “putting her in a very public position,” said former ASSU President Shanta Katipamula ’19 M.S. ’20, who has long advocated for Miller. “They’re pressuring her through this announcement … to accept the agreement as [the University] has devised it, rather than what was originally agreed upon” — that is, one plaque with Miller’s quote.
Miranda countered this criticism in a statement to The Daily, writing that there was “no intention to pressure Ms. Miller in any way.”
“The university reached out to her representative last week to seek her permission for the use of the quote,” he added, “and given the continuing discussion on campus, the provost felt that an update to the community at this time was needed.”
Katipamula also believes the site marker essentially serves as a trigger warning, and thereby reinforces the false premise that her words are triggering — “which they’re not.”
In explaining the University’s original decision to reject the quote, Drell wrote in a Notes from the Quad blog post that University leadership had consulted with sexual violence counselors and survivors of sexual assault before concluding that it might trigger survivors of sexual assault. However, Stanford Law professor and activist Michele Dauber wrote in a past statement to The Daily that Miller’s quote contained no graphic content, noting that it had been printed in headlines and graphics of mainstream publications like the Washington Post and Cosmopolitan.
Drell’s message comes about a month after a campus climate survey found that 38.5% of female undergraduates who have attended Stanford for four or more years reported at least one incident of nonconsensual sexual contact. Survey results also revealed a dearth of confidence in University resources to address sexual assault.
“The survey results provide a clear message: We need to confront sexual violence openly and aggressively at Stanford,” Drell wrote. “This, too, has influenced my reflections on the garden.”
Drell noted that the University decision was influenced by campus pressure — which reached many corners of campus — to install the plaque with Miller’s quotation. The Undergraduate Senate, Graduate Student Council, Faculty Senate and more than 2,000 petition signatories called for the installation of the plaque. Earlier this fall, two plaques with the chosen quote were constructed anonymously at the contemplative garden. Miranda wrote in a statement to The Daily that Stanford expects the two temporary plaques to be replaced with the permanent installation.
“The original discussions around the proposed plaque for the garden left no one satisfied,” Drell wrote.
This story has been updated with a quote from Shanta Katipamula and a statement from University spokesperson E.J. Miranda.
Contact Elena Shao at eshao98 ‘at’ stanford.edu.