Stanford Student Group Petitions University After Brock Turner's Sexual Assault Conviction: 'They Can Do More'
In the wake of the high-profile sexual assault conviction of former student Brock Turner against an unconscious woman, the Stanford Association of Students for Sexual Assault Prevention, a student advocacy group, has launched a Change.org petition directed at Stanford that has gained almost 80,000 signatures.
The petition demands that Stanford immediately and publicly apologize to the survivor, offer accommodations including counseling to the survivor, increase the number of resources allocated for sexual assault prevention, introduce new requirements on sexual assault education, increase its counseling resources and administer a national, uniform “climate survey” regarding sexual violence in fraternities.
Last Thursday, Turner, a 20-year-old former Stanford University swimmer, was sentenced to six months in county jail. The sentence drew widespread criticism and gained national attention after the survivor shared an emotional letter directed at Turner, which she read in court after his sentencing. Prosecutors had asked for six years.
The petition states: “While this case, like many others, demonstrates the problems of the legal system and the prevalence of rape culture, there are still ways in which Stanford University can step up and support the survivor.”
Turner has admitted to the sexual contact but maintained it was consensual. In a statement to the judge, he cited peer pressure and campus drinking culture as factors in his behavior.
Stanford student Matthew Baiza, the co-author of the petition, tells PEOPLE, “The important thing is that we can always do more to have education efforts and create a climate on campus that supports survivors. If you read into what our petition says, we’re not saying that the university is doing anything wrong, but the university can always do more. All of this injustice has occurred, but the university can step up and show some more support.”
What You Need to Know: Ex-Stanford Swimmer Found Guilty of Sexually Assaulting Unconscious Woman
Currently, incoming freshmen must complete an online sexual assault, drug and alcohol educational program, but Baiza, 20, says this doesn’t go far enough.
“It’s so easy for anybody to play all the videos, not watch it and just answer the questions at the end,” Baiza says. “We need to create this idea of active learning by continually engaging with the material and we need to find a way to more actively engage the community.”
Stanford Statement: ‘Stanford University Did Everything Within Its Power to Assure that Justice was Served’
Stanford released a statement on its website that read, in part, “Stanford University did everything within its power to assure that justice was served in this case, including an immediate police investigation and referral to the Santa Clara County District Attorney s Office for a successful prosecution.
“Stanford urges its students to do the right thing and intervene and we are proud of our students for stopping this incident. Many other student witnesses cooperated in the investigation. Once Stanford learned the identity of the young woman involved, the university reached out confidentially to offer her support and to tell her the steps we were taking.
It continued: “There has been a significant amount of misinformation circulating about Stanford s role. In this case, Stanford University, its students, its police and its staff members did everything they could,” the Stanford statement reads. “Stanford University takes the issue of sexual assault extremely seriously and has been a national leader in taking concrete steps to implement prevention programs, to train students on the importance of bystander intervention, to provide support to students who may experience sexual assault and to assure that cases are handled fairly and justly.”
Baiza is critical of the statement, saying, “The university sounded more reactive than proactive.”
He adds, “They’re trying to defend themselves instead of taking a step back and saying ‘We’re going to support the survivors, we’re going to make a change.’ They were responding by saying we have all these great things that we’re doing already. There’s a difference in those two types of messaging. It’s not just going to happen with one or two people, it’s not just going to happen with one or two student groups.”