‘We have her back’: Students hold rally in solidarity with Chanel Miller

Sept. 24, 2019, 11:57 p.m.

Over 100 students turned out to White Plaza on Tuesday afternoon for a tabling event in support of Chanel Miller’s book release. At the event, students signed a petition asking Stanford to let Miller choose the words on a plaque at the site where she was sexually assaulted in 2015. 

Miller’s memoir “Know My Name,” which was also released on Tuesday, follows her sexual assault by former Stanford student Brock Turner. The case and Turner’s sentencing, which many deemed too lenient, fueled a national conversation about privilege and sexual assault on college campuses. 

The petition had garnered 517 signatures as of Tuesday evening, according to Sabrina Medler ’20, a Daily staff member and one of three people who hosted the event. 

Stanford renovated the site of the assault outside the Kappa Alpha fraternity house in October 2017, replacing a dumpster that stood in the area with benches and a fountain. Miller was slated to choose a quote for a plaque to be installed at the site. Stanford rejected Miller’s first two choices after sexual violence counselors at Stanford raised concerns the quotes might have detrimental effects on sexual assault survivors. The University proposed three other quotes from her victim impact statement delivered at Turner’s sentencing. Miller subsequently resigned from choosing the plaque’s quotation.

Former Associated Students of Stanford University President Shanta Katipamula ’19 M.S. ’20 joined Elizabeth Kim ’21 and Medler in hosting the event. Katipamula told The Daily she hoped to “provide an education for some people on our campus who may be less familiar with Chanel Miller’s story.”

Stanford’s Class of 2020 is the last to have matriculated before the assault, and Tuesday’s event was an effort to pass down the assault’s history. 

“Her [Miller’s] assault happened at a time when most of the students on this campus weren’t even here,” Katipamula said. “We wanted to make sure that we were passing that knowledge down.”

Katipamula said she noticed that a lot of the people who stopped by the table were freshmen, some of whom already knew about Chanel’s story and wanted to know how they could continue to carry that torch forward — “which is just so inspiring,” Katipamula added. 

The event was titled “Words Matter: Stanford Students In Solidarity with Chanel Miller.”

“We at the campus community are behind her 100%,” Katipamula said. “We have her back.”

Students at the table read over Miller’s statement and picked passages to write on colored cards strung behind the table. 

“What we’re trying to do is fill White Plaza with Chanel Miller’s voice,” Medler told The Daily. “She is finally able to come out and reveal her identity to a nationwide movement that launched a really big conversation about sexual assault on campus.”

The idea for the event originated in a Facebook group for alumni of Michelle Dauber’s course, “One in Five: The Law, Politics, and Policy of Campus Sexual Assault.”

“[Medler] posted, ‘hey we should do something to support [Miller]. Anyone interested?’ and it grew organically out of that,” Katipamula said. 

The event also drew attention to sexual assault on campus and the Title IX reporting process.

“We really need to keep campuses accountable for protecting survivors of sexual assault,” said Theresa Gao ’21, a volunteer at the table.

Stanford’s “Title IX process is traumatizing for a lot of survivors to the point where people like my friends don’t want to go through the process,” Gao added. “When you consider that survivors on campus don’t report, that shows how the problem is underrepresented in a lot of these statistics.”  

Keagan Cross ’23 stopped by the table and picked one of Miller’s quotes to copy on a notecard: “You took away, my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy my confidence, my own voice, until today.” 

“I think that’s really powerful and inspiring,” Cross said. “She is still going through this process of reclaiming things that are very basic to her identity — things that are very basic to her self-worth. I think it shows how exhausting it can be going through that process.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Stanford chose one quote from Miller’s victim impact statement as a possible message on a plaque. The University provided three proposals.

Contact Nicholas Midler at midler ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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