I know many of you have seen a story that recently appeared on the Internet focusing on emails sent by a former Stanford student to fellow fraternity members and others while he was attending Stanford several years ago. Like most of you, male and female, I found those messages abhorrent. I am writing now to convey clearly that the sentiments expressed in these emails do not reflect what we, as members of the Stanford community, expect of one another.
I know the vast majority of you agree. In fact, the former student has issued a public statement expressing regret over the emails, calling them “idiotic” and saying they “in no way reflect who I am today or my views toward women.” I have no reason to doubt his statement or the sincerity of his regret. But that does not change the fact that the emails were sent. And in my mind, that raises a troubling question for the rest of us. Because the emails were also received, and no doubt received by others who found them crude, offensive and demeaning to women — others who had already matured enough to see them as, in fact, worse than “idiotic.”
This is what concerns me most. We can choose to turn a blind eye to such statements and chalk them up to youthful indiscretion. Or we can be more courageous, and affirmatively reject such behavior whenever and wherever we see it, even — no, especially — if it comes from a friend, a classmate, or a colleague. Only if we choose the latter will we create the kind of university culture we all can be proud of, all of the time.
The author of those emails is not proud that he sent them. The members of his fraternity are not proud to be associated with them. And the wider Stanford community is positively ashamed they were sent by one of our members.
But we are a learning community, and so I am writing to ask that we all learn something from this. There will always be members of the Stanford community who arrive here without the maturity to recognize the corrosive effect of crude or hateful language, and the attitudes that give rise to it, on a community like Stanford based on mutual respect.
So I am asking that each of us choose the more difficult path whenever we encounter such attitudes. It does not take many strong and vocal objections to communicate what we consider acceptable and what we do not. Members of our community should learn now, not many years from now, how abhorrent those attitudes are, whether real or feigned.
This is a good time to reflect on our common values and our obligations to one another as members of the Stanford community. As we approach the end of the academic year and, for the senior class, the end of the undergraduate experience, let us celebrate in ways that reflect our best selves. Let us strive to be role models in our interactions with others.
Finally, please know that Stanford resources are available to anyone who has concerns about the conduct of individuals or groups and the effect of that conduct on the rights of others. No student should have any aspect of his or her experience at Stanford compromised by conduct of others that violates university policy. Among the many resources available are the Title IX Coordinator, the Sexual Harassment Policy Office, the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education, the Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse Office, Counseling and Psychological Services, and Residential Education. Never hesitate to contact any of these offices when you need it.