May 11, 2017
To whom it may concern:
We, of the UCSC Graduate Student Association Executive Board, write to express our deep concerns over the email thread “Graffiti and Leaflets” initiated by faculty members in theLiterature Department on Sunday, May 7th. While this email thread was not circulated among the entire graduate student population, we write in recognition of the growing distress and alienation it has caused among our peers and students, both within the Literature Department and in other academic units, over the last few days.
We write as graduate students who stand in solidarity with other students who have ever felt or presently feel unsafe in certain spaces on campus.
Among us are survivors of sexual assault, instructors who have helped students navigate the reporting process, and peers who have helped fellow graduate students cope with discrimination and/or harassment. Many of us have personally experienced or borne witness to the inadequacies of official channels for resolving the harm done by sexual harassment and violence on this campus and others.
The vulnerabilities and imperfections of these democratic procedures emerge in a context of decades-long national trends including:
● victim-blaming and retaliation against people who report assault and harassment,
● underreporting and very low incident rate of false reporting,
● recent scandals of disproportionate criminal legal repercussions for incidents of sexual
violence even when there are multiple witnesses to assault (including the Brock Turner
case at Stanford),
● high profile cases of faculty harassment and sexual assault, wherein the privileges
associated with being tenured faculty allow respondents to continue teaching, to be
moved to other positions, or to choose to resign before they are held accountable
(including the Hector Perla settlement at UCSC).
Amidst the current national political climate, we are particularly struck by the faculty’s
unwavering faith in the adequacy of administrative channels for providing redress to students.
Given the UC’s history of failing to hold accountable known and proven perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault, it is troubling that such a statement and its supporters did not consider the possibility that the graffiti and leaflets may have emerged because of a breakdown in official processes.
We understand the noted “threats” of anonymous actions associated with unsubstantiated allegations, and want to make it clear we have not reviewed the actual language of the leaflet in question firsthand. However, by castigating these tactics (specifically the use of anonymous leafleting), the responding email shifts the focus away from the very serious allegations being put forth by the anonymous collective. We implore the faculty and the administration to recognize the dangers of equating anonymity with falsehood, and are particularly troubled by the suggestion that the leaflet authors are merely “tak[ing] advantage of a campus atmosphere” to “target” a faculty member. To denigrate individuals for pursuing a means of redress beyond the overburdened and understaffed Title IX office is problematic at best.
Likewise, we are concerned when the faculty response to allegations of sexual assault is excoriation, and we are wary of the seeming lack of sensitivity reflected in the email to the precarity of certain bodies on campus due to hierarchies of power which often perpetuate misogyny, transphobia, racism, ableism, citizenship, ageism, and other forms of sexual discrimination and harassment.
We remain committed to creating a campus environment where all students feel safe and heard.
We want to build a community of trust where survivors of harassment and sexualized violence can come forward with confidence that they will be believed, and can report without fear of retaliation from their community and mentors.
The 2016-17 Graduate Student Association Executive Board
Jose Antonio Villaran
Questions about this letter can be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org or to the GSA President at
UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal
UCSC Title IX Officer Tracey Tsugawa
UCSC Incoming CP/EVC Marlene Tromp
UCSC Vice Chancellor of Business and Academic Services Sarah Latham
UCSC Beyond Compliance Co-Chairs Martin Berger and Kim Lau
UCSC Humanities Dean Tyler Stovall
UCSC Graduate Division Dean Tyrus Miller
UCSC Academic Senate Chair Olof Einarsdottir
UCSC Literature Chair Deanna Shemek
UCOP Systemwide Title IX Coordinator Kathleen Salvaty