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Response to provost’s update on Chanel Miller’s plaque

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You do not sign a legal settlement agreement with another party, promising to do something, and then, once the ink is dry, add, “Oh, and one other thing … ”

And then, if they refuse to accept that condition, say, “Well, they decided against the agreement, we did all we can.”

And yet that is what the provost’s statement regarding the Chanel Miller plaque amounts to — justice on condition.

Tuesday saw the publication of our Open Letter to the president and provost. Three weeks had passed since the Faculty Senate voted unanimously to back the recommendation of a resolution unanimously passed by both the ASSU Undergraduate Senate and the Graduate Student Council. The resolution endorsed a petition signed by over 2,200 community members, demanding that Stanford build the plaque with the words Chanel Miller has chosen.

Tuesday also saw the publication of the provost’s statement, saying that Stanford would build the plaque with those precise words. We are pleased that Stanford has changed its position and now acknowledges the necessity of installing the plaque with Miller’s chosen quote. 

However, we are deeply concerned that Stanford — which has spent years falsely claiming that Miller’s words are dangerous and triggering — now intends to place a second plaque interpreting Miller’s words. We believe that Stanford should let Miller speak for herself as the University originally agreed three years ago. If the provost refuses to do so, then at minimum she should provide the verbatim text of this new, additional plaque to Miller and the community so that we can be assured that it is fair and accurate.

How is Miller to know how Stanford’s new additional plaque will interpret her words and the site itself? Will the new plaque include the provost’s repeated and incorrect statement that Miller’s words are harmful? Miller deserves to know how her words will be framed by this new plaque before she agrees. Yet Stanford rushed ahead with an announcement. Why not wait and obtain Miller’s input and agreement before announcing a plan? 
We believe it is inappropriate that the Stanford administration made a unilateral decision to install a second plaque that will impact how Miller’s words are framed and understood in the name of a university of which we are a larger part than they — remember, all three elected representative bodies at Stanford voted unanimously in support of displaying Chanel Miller’s words on the plaque. No student representative or Faculty Senate member said, “on the condition that … ” 

It is entirely up to Chanel Miller to decide what to do at this point. We offer her our unconditional support, respect and love, and we apologize on the part of our administration for the fact that once more she has been made to bear responsibility for the actions of others.

Signed,

Emma Tsurkov, Ph.D. Candidate, ASSU Co-Director of Sexual Violence Prevention

Shanta Katipamula, B.S. ‘19, M.S. ‘20, ASSU Executive President 2018-2019

Erica Scott, B.A. ‘20, ASSU Executive President 2019-2020

Isaiah Drummond, B.S. ‘20, M.S. ‘21, ASSU Executive Vice President, 2019-2020

David Palumbo-Liu, Professor and Member, Faculty Senate