Facing public pressure, Stanford decides to install plaque with Chanel Miller's words

Provost says campus reaction, sexual-assault data influenced her decision

Stanford University literature professor David Palumbo-Liu, left; student Sandro Hall, 21; and doctorate student Sandra Schachat, 32, use an augmented reality app created to honor Chanel Miller, the woman who was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner, at the site where the assault took place on campus. Photo by Sammy Dallal.

Almost two years after rejecting a quote proposed by Chanel Miller for a plaque at a memorial garden where she was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner, Stanford University has reversed its position and decided to use her chosen words.

Provost Persis Drell announced her decision on Tuesday in the wake of growing public pressure — in the form of petitions, Faculty Senate and student government resolutions, opinion pieces and most recently, two anonymously installed plaques with the quote Miller had originally proposed from her famed victim impact statement: "You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today."

Stanford had rejected the quote because it could be "triggering" for survivors of sexual violence, prompting Miller to withdraw from talks with the university.

On Tuesday, Drell said the faculty and student government resolutions, individuals reaching out to her and recent survey data illustrating high rates of campus sexual violence all influenced her decision.

"The perspectives have been very useful and varied, and they have deepened my understanding that survivors of sexual violence process their experiences in very personal, nuanced, individualized ways," she wrote in an update to the campus community.

A representative for Miller did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Monday, student and faculty leaders penned an open letter in the Stanford Daily calling for a "honest, direct, substantive and full response" from Drell and President Marc Tessier-Lavigne on the plaque.

"The president's and provost's refusals to address seriously the tidal wave of protests we see in these petitions, resolutions and acts of creative resistance only erode further any remaining trust we have, precisely at a time when our community needs trust more than anything," they wrote. The piece was authored by Erica Scott, president of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU); Shanta Katipamula, last year's ASSU president; Emma Tsurkov, ASSU co-director of sexual violence prevention; ASSU vice president Isaiah Drummond; and professor David Palumbo-Liu, who serves on the Faculty Senate.

In a follow-up opinion piece on Wednesday, they said they were "pleased" about Drell's decision but criticized the university's intention to place a second marker at the site.

"We are deeply concerned that Stanford — which has spent years falsely claiming that Miller’s words are dangerous and triggering — now intends to place a second plaque interpreting Miller's words," they wrote. "We believe that Stanford should let Miller speak for herself as the university originally agreed three years ago. If the provost refuses to do so, then at minimum she should provide the verbatim text of this new, additional plaque to Miller and the community so that we can be assured that it is fair and accurate."

Stanford has reached out to Miller through a representative for permission to use her quote, Drell said. In her message, the provost also apologized to Miller: "I am deeply sorry that Ms. Miller was sexually assaulted on our campus, and I recognize the profound pain she has experienced."

Miller, a Palo Alto native and graduate of Gunn High School, revealed her identity publicly this fall in advance of the publication of her memoir on the assault and its aftermath.

The university also plans to install a marker at the entrance to the garden explaining its significance as "a contemplative space to honor and support survivors of sexual violence and remind us of our obligations to the safety and wellbeing of all in our community — and offering contact information for a confidential support resource for those visitors who wish to have it," Drell wrote.

"The original discussions around the proposed plaque for the garden left no one satisfied," she said. "The contemplative garden does need signage to explain what it is and what it signifies. We want visitors to the site to understand its purpose."


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


19 people like this
Posted by Binge drinking is perilous
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 13, 2019 at 1:36 pm

How about a plaque warning young people that binge drinking is reckless. That sound advice is ignored because it’s viewed as blaming the victim, it’s just common sense.

18 people like this
Posted by Anonimouse
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 13, 2019 at 1:48 pm

Not just binge drinking, but any drinking. [Portion removed.]

8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2019 at 2:39 pm

[Post removed.]

21 people like this
Posted by Ignore the important lesson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 13, 2019 at 2:51 pm

Ignore the most important lesson EVERYONE can take away from this.

Ignore the one single thing, that if you remove it from this story, prevents the crime from ever happening.

Oh, and crucify or block the heretics who might bring up this fact. Call them victim blamers and shout them down.

What steps were taken to facilitate the crime? First and foremost, two kids got blotto drunk.

14 people like this
Posted by any
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 13, 2019 at 3:24 pm

Know his name. Recently a Stanford student assaulted and seriously injured a Stanford police officer. I guess there are assaults and assaults.

2 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 13, 2019 at 4:12 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

9 people like this
Posted by More Plaques
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2019 at 8:20 pm

[Post removed.]

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Su Hong 2.0? Former waiter reopens Chinese standby under new name in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 11 comments | 6,963 views

What gives you hope?
By Sherry Listgarten | 18 comments | 3,351 views

Living as Roommates? Not Having Much Sex?
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 3,333 views

Expert witnesses are more than experts. Plus my 7 fundamental impeachment questions
By Douglas Moran | 34 comments | 3,063 views

Sure, the traffic mess in town is a complicated problem, but I want a solution
By Diana Diamond | 30 comments | 1,075 views


Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 26 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away more than $7 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. When you make a donation, every dollar is automatically doubled, and 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.