In this week's Around Town column, read about a new site marking where a former Stanford University student sexually assaulted a woman in 2015, Palo Alto's leaders visiting its newest sister city and a young chef who recently competed on a Food Network show.
A POWERFUL REMINDER ... If one didn't know what had transpired in the early hours of Jan. 18, 2015, the two wooden benches and bubbling fountain surrounded by plants and trees at Stanford University would seem peaceful. But the site is there to serve as a reminder of when a former Stanford student sexually assaulted a young woman, their names — Brock Turner and Emily Doe (a pseudonym) — eventually becoming synonymous with campus sexual violence. Stanford recently transformed the place where Turner was found on top of the unconscious woman behind a dumpster outside of the Kappa Alpha fraternity house. He was later found guilty of sexual assault and served three months in jail. Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, a sexual-assault reform advocate and family friend of Doe's, said she approached the university about removing the dumpster and re-landscaping the area when Turner was released from jail last summer. "We have transformed this space from something that instilled fear and apprehension on the part of the students who saw (the dumpster) into something that invites and challenges students to come to grips with the impact of this experience on the survivor and the role that they as partygoers and participants now in this scene have in perpetuating or preventing the circumstances that led to that incident," Dauber said. The area will soon include a plaque that features a quote from Doe's victim impact statement, which upon its release made powerful ripples across the country. University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin declined to answer questions about the site "out of respect for the victim," but said it is a "contemplative space for our community." Dauber hopes the area will remind Stanford students for years to come that the university will address sexual violence and stands with its survivors.
FAMILY REUNION ... Palo Alto's city leaders took a rare diplomatic voyage in late September, when they flew off to Europe to mingle with their counterparts in Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. First, Burgermeister Greg Scharff, Vize-Burgermeister Liz Kniss and City Manager James Keene touched down in Heidelberg, Germany, where they formally signed the newest sister-city partnership (or "twin towns" as they're known there). After a formal signing ceremony and a less formal outdoor celebration of the new partnership, Scharff and Keene went on to Enschede and Linkoping — the city's Dutch and Swedish siblings, respectively — to do the usual touristy things: explore startup spaces at local research parks, check out energy-efficient homes and tour waste-to-energy plants. One thing that Scharff said surprised him is the high number of designated incubator spaces both in Enschede and Linköping. "They have new modern buildings they had built, where you'd have 60 to 70 small startups," Scharff said. "It felt a lot like Palo Alto in that way but they actually created incubator spaces. Ours are like in Starbucks."
SHORT END OF THE STICK ... Palo Alto continues to produce competitors for the "Food Network's "Chopped Junior," with the latest one being Bram Feenstra who was featured in an episode that aired Tuesday night. The young chef who's part Dutch got his start in the kitchen with his father when he was 6 or 7 years old. He worked under pressure through three 30-minute rounds with off-the-wall ingredients that had to be served on a stick. For the appetizer, he produced a deep fried mini corn dog on a stick with shishito pepper and mushroom tortellini. Chef Marcus Samuelsson, one of the three judges, commended the preteen for pushing through when his dough was stuck to the fryer basket. He also received praise for his entree — a filet mignon with cake pop crouton, skewered tomato and zucchini salad. Food Network personality Sunny Anderson was initially scared to see the dark charred layer on the meat, but the burnt quality helped caramelized the crouton. He advanced to the final and sweetest round — dessert. His chocolate banana cookie bar sundae with toasted marshmallows and raspberry fool (a pureed fruit mixed with whipped cream) was an impressive feat, but not enough for him to win it all. Bram planned to save part of the $10,000 winnings to his college fund and the remainder to open a restaurant.