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."
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."