When one narrative stifles others

Dec. 9, 2018, 2:22 p.m.

Claire Wang’s “Title IX doesn’t cover emotional abuse. What happens when student organizations are left to manage it on their own?” fails to productively answer the crucial question posed in its title. Instead the article neglects a broader perspective and approaches serious abuse allegations using a sensationalist, one-sided deluge of personal history; Amanda Spyropoulos details the dangers of this approach in “On Anonymity”. In addition, Wang’s article undermines its stated purpose and should not have been published without responsible coverage involving additional perspectives.

Wang’s title inaccurately suggests Common Origins’ leadership was “left to manage” a situation of emotional abuse. CO leadership became involved in the situation’s aftermath several months after the “relationship” ended, and leadership terms ended several weeks before the allegations involving “abuse” or “relationship violence”. These allegations clarify in hindsight that administrative guidance was needed from the outset, whereas the situation during leadership involvement was portrayed differently.

Leadership began communicating with Matthew regarding complaints from multiple team members about his interpersonal conduct. Matthew shared his story, which at the time focused on general feelings of discomfort and a fear that James would speak to him at events (James expressed no interest in approaching Matthew). Matthew deflected attempts to discuss his conduct by intensifying his demands that his story be prioritized over those of other members;
I did not feel comfortable approving such demands given the context Matthew had shared at the time. When leadership discussions concluded professional assistance was needed, Matthew (coincidentally) contacted us hours later to inform us he was visiting multiple administrators in rapid succession. I feared outreach immediately following Matthew’s could be mistaken as defensive given his negation of other stories – including his own hurtful actions toward James.

The article overlooks the difficulty experienced by James during his “relationship” with Matthew and eschews even the possibility of a two-sided narrative. That “James” did not respond with comments is unsurprising given the bias shown by the author. As a friend of both parties during their relationship, I saw the relationship become mutually unhealthy and problematic on both sides – to label one person as “the abuser” and the other as “the victim” is incorrect and encourages using serious allegations as weapons of silencing and coercion.

When I expressed my concerns to Wang after the Stanford Daily requested my comment, she reassured me, “The angle of the story centers not on the particulars of [Matthew]’s relationship, but rather on the lack of administrative oversight … in managing the conflict at hand involving [CO].” This claim is inconsistent with both the article and Wang’s previous statement that the story “pertains to alumni involvement in student groups.”

I am deeply troubled that this article was published at all, let alone in its current form. The Daily should retract the article, as a follow-up article alone would not mitigate the negligence encouraged by the original. I hope the Daily will review the proceedings leading to this tabloid-esque publication and revise its policies on reporting allegations of abuse.

– Nathan Lee, M.S. Applied Physics ’18, Ph.D. Applied Physics ‘21

Contact Nathan at nlee92 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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