On January 18, 2015, the woman we now know is Chanel Miller was brutally sexually attacked, while unconscious, on the Stanford campus. Part of Stanford’s response was to agree to build a memorial at that location, and to use a passage from Miller’s victim statement. This is a statement that has been read by over 15 million people worldwide, a statement that was read into the record of the United States Congress. Yet Stanford did not approve of the words Miller selected, and suggested others. More than a thousand people have signed a petition that asks Stanford to respect Miller’s wishes.
Stanford felt the words Miller selected were “triggering.” But then why do we have memorials to the Holocaust throughout Germany and elsewhere to remind us of the human capacity for evil, and for heroism? Why has Stanford allowed other controversial and graphic books such as Tommy Orange’s stunning “There, There,” which contains segments describing the genocide of native people, to be part of Three Books? Those who signed that petition — the vast majority of whom are undergraduates — certainly do not find Miller’s words “triggering,” but rather, thought-provoking, cautionary and inspiring.
Perhaps Stanford wanted viewers to have more of the context of the event. This petition is meant to perform that task. We are asking that Miller’s book, “Know My Name,” be made one of the Three Books all incoming students read. They would also have the benefit of hearing Ms. Miller speak for herself in person. It would be ludicrous to imagine that anybody coming to Stanford could be oblivious to the Brock Turner case. Most likely, they belong to the over 15 million people who have read Chanel Miller’s Statement. We ask that Stanford provide a common experience of education, in the most powerful manner possible, on issues of racism, sexism and the judicial process when it comes to sexual violence and institutional responsibility. This is a conversation our community needs to have.
— David Palumbo-Liu, Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor of Comparative Literature
Contact David Palumbo-Liu at palboliu ‘at’ stanford.edu.