Stanford’s graduation was marked by protests against the former student who has drawn attention to sexual assault at the California school and across the country, Brock Turner.
The 20-year-old will likely serve only three months for the rape of an unidentified unconscious woman during his freshman year, and graduates of the Palo Alto university held signs decrying the lenient sentence.
Turner, who has since been expelled, has drawn international attention for the light punishment and his general lack of taking responsibility, blaming his actions on alcohol.
His victim, a now 23-year-old who did not go to his school, wrote an impact letter shared widely by supporters and celebrities to highlight the terrible impact that the crime had.
Stanford students showed solidarity on Sunday, and at least one blamed the school with a sign saying that it “protects rapists.”
A women’s advocacy group commissioned a plane to fly over the school with the words “Protect survivors. Not rapists.”
(D. ROSS CAMERON/AP)
Another drew the Stanford Tree, the university’s mascot, and said that “rape culture has deep roots.”
Some at the silly costume “Walky Walk” before the official graduation ceremony wore “1/3” on their caps, representing the World Health Organization statistic that one-third of women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes.
Judge Aaron Persky, who sentenced Turner to six months when prosecutors had asked for six years, has also been the target of criticism.
A campaign from the women’s advocacy group UltraViolet for him to be recalled has gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures, and the group also filed a formal misconduct complaint against the judge.
(Stanford University’s Department of Public Safety)
UltraViolet commissioned a plane to fly over Stanford on Sunday, carrying the words, “Protect survivors. Not rapists. Persky Must Go.”
It also took out a full page ad in the Stanford Daily student newspaper, symbolizing the two Swedish men who found Turner assaulting his victim behind a dumpster.
There was no disruption during the graduation ceremony itself, during which Stanford President John Hennessey asked for a moment of silence for victims of sexual violence.
Award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns spent much of his speech lambasting the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, but also spoke about the issue that has dominated around the campus’s commencement celebrations.
Documentarian Ken Burns said that people should “effing listen” to victims of sexual assault.
“Look, I am the father of four daughters. If someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, take it effing seriously and listen to them,” he told graduates.
“Maybe someday we’ll make the survivor’s eloquent statement as important as Dr. King’s letter from the Birmingham jail.”
With News Wire Services
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