The Daily stands in solidarity with the Black community. Read our editors’ statement.

Stanford has spoken: Put up the plaque, Persis

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Over 2,000 people have signed the petition. The undergraduate, graduate and faculty senates all unanimously voted in favor. Over 100 students rallied in support.

There has been resounding consensus at all levels of leadership recommending that Chanel Miller’s quote be placed at the site of her rape — that is, consensus at every level except at the very top: Provost Persis Drell’s office. Several writers have opined in our pages that Stanford’s failure to support Miller signals its broader failure to support survivors of sexual violence. The co-creator of “Dear Visitor,” a VR app that allows users to envision Miller’s plaque at the site of her assault, implores Stanford to stop gaslighting students and to show institutional courage. And a psychology professor and Stanford alumna deconstructs Drell’s justification that the plaque — if featuring Miller’s chosen words — could be triggering to survivors of sexual assault.

The Stanford community has already made its stance on the issue clear. As The Daily’s Editorial Board, we affirm it. We believe Chanel Miller deserves to have her voice etched into the architecture of the University, and to have her experiences given due respect in her own words. It is the least Stanford can do. It is rare for campus controversies to unite Stanford’s various constituencies as much as this one has. The push to install Miller’s plaque as she originally wanted it is a testament to our shared values — values that demand elevating the voices of survivors and honestly confronting the consequences of sexual assault. 

In light of this, Drell’s refusal to use Miller’s quote can only be read as a rejection of these values. Her persistence in undermining Miller’s voice — and by extension, the voices of a multitude of other survivors and activists — undercuts Stanford’s repeated attempts to assure students of institutional support. In her debrief of the results of the AAU Campus Climate Survey, Drell wrote that, while the University would be committed to addressing issues of sexual violence, “real and lasting solutions” could only be achieved through the “commitment of every single member of our community to participate in the culture change that is needed to end sexual violence on our campus.” We agree. And while student activists are upholding their end of this imperative, we question the administration’s commitment to such cultural change. Drell opened her statement on the contemplative garden in 2018 by stating that “any narrative that gives the impression that Stanford does not care about sexual violence, or that we do not wish to support survivors, hinders our ability as a community to move forward to address this issue.” It has become overwhelmingly clear in the intervening year and a half that Stanford’s inaction is the culprit for such narratives. In the face of such support for Miller, Drell’s stance regarding the plaque not only contradicts her vision of lasting change but also undermines any sense of ownership and agency over the university we call our own.  

The Stanford community awaits administrative response to its calls for action. When we reached out to ask whether Drell would reevaluate her decision, University spokesperson E.J. Miranda responded on her behalf, offering no more detail than that the Provost would announce her decision when she had “fully considered” the input. We think that the Stanford community has spoken loudly and clearly enough; now the ball is in Drell’s court.

The University has failed Chanel Miller. It has attempted to deny her voice, erase her experience and render her invisible at every turn. Despite the administration’s efforts, Miller’s empowers herself in her memoir “Know My Name,” elevating her voice and narrative against these obstructive forces. Rather than resenting the University, she calls on it to do better and be better: 

“I write in hopes that schools will see how much power they have to help or hurt a victim. Listen to survivors when they come to you. Offer help when they don’t. Do not write polite emails about how you did the best you could, about how actually that was not your job. Just help them. If I accuse Stanford of failing to support victims, I hope they prove me wrong by saying they care about victims and then show everyone how they do.” 

Contact the Volume 256 Editorial Board at opinions ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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Editorials represent the views of The Stanford Daily, an independent newspaper serving Stanford and the surrounding community. The Daily's Vol. 256 Editorial Board consists of Editor-in-Chief Julia Ingram '21, Executive Editor Holden Foreman '21, Managing Editor of Opinions Jasmine Liu '20, Megha Parwani '21, Nadav Zhiv '22 and Layo Laniyan '19. To contact the Editorial Board, submit an op-ed (limited to 700 words) at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor (limited to 500 words) at [email protected]