Stanford University 101: How to be Tone Deaf

My sexual assault occurred on a street by a bookstore. When I talk about it, I never discuss if I was drinking that night. I do not tell people what I was wearing. I do not comment on my past sex life. I do not mention any of those things because they do not matter. What matters is that I was raped. What matters is someone forced himself on me, stripping me of my peace of mind, my dignity, and my body autonomy. I am so tired of responsibility for my rape being removed from my rapist and being placed squarely on my shoulders. No rape survivor should have that misplaced burden thrust upon them, which is why Stanford’s latest alcohol policy is so insulting and unsafe.

Stanford’s new alcohol policy would effectively ban hard liquor at on-campus parties and establish a size limit on containers of hard alcohol in university residences. Stanford officials say conversations about limiting types of alcohol on campus began “long ago” and are unrelated to the Brock Turner case; however, the timing has led many to believe otherwise. Initially, I was willing to give Stanford the benefit of the doubt. I thought maybe the timing could be a coincidence. But the more I thought about it, the more something nagged at me.

After a moment of processing the policy, I realized it really doesn’t matter whether the policy implementation is coincidental or not. The effect is the same in either instance: just two months after a judge accepted the excuse “alcohol made me rape”, Stanford limited alcohol. The new policy binds rape to alcohol and partying and ends up, intentionally or not, underpinning a culture that already is rife in victim blaming.

I read through press releases and I began to note the new policy and the Turner case are perhaps not as tentatively correlated as Stanford claims. In his statement to the judge for sentencing, Turner specifically mentions needing to “change people’s attitudes towards the culture surrounded by binge drinking,” as this would have prevented his “decision” to rape someone. This language is mirrored in statements in support of the policy from Stanford president John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy, who wrote “We need new solutions…that meaningfully change our culture around alcohol.” Like before, I tried to adopt some doubt. Maybe the language was just a coincidence. Then I realized what I was doing.

I was giving Stanford the same unfounded doubt Judge Persky gave Brock Turner, the same doubts given to so many rapists, and it is dangerous. When people or institutions take actions that support rape, we have to stop creating excuses for their actions. Stanford has a long history of not providing adequate support for victims of sexual assault. As of May 2016, Stanford has the highest number of active Title IX inquiries of any college in the country. It certainly would not be out of character for Stanford to have crafted this tone deaf policy to attempt to save face after the Turner case.

I sincerely hope Stanford listens and processes the backlash it is receiving. By implementing this policy and standing by it, Stanford is continuing to play an active role in furthering rape culture. For a school dubbed “The Harvard of the 21st century,” one would hope it wouldn’t have difficulty grasping the concept alcohol doesn’t rape people, rapists rape people. Quite frankly, prestige or not, this shouldn’t be a hard concept for anyone to grasp.

On the heels of student backlash, Greg Boardman, the vice provost for student affairs, sent a letter to students regarding the policy on Monday, stating, “I ask you to bring your best selves to this endeavor, to consider the real concerns raised by your fellow students, and those articulated here, and to be a part of solving this problem.”

Maybe it is time Stanford took its own advice.

 

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