CONTACT: Stanford University News Service (650) 723-2558
Officials condemn homophobic incident; no prosecution planned
STANFORD -- University officials will not attempt to apply the Fundamental Standard against a Stanford student who admitted that he shouted homophobic slurs in the direction of a lecturer's home. Instead, Dean of Students Michael Jackson has made details of the case public, in an effort to stimulate campuswide debate and bring the pressure of public disapproval upon such actions. The incident, which occurred Jan. 19, involved three students who were walking through Otero House, in Wilbur Hall. After exiting the dorm lounge, witnesses said, one of the students began screaming "Faggot! Hope you die of AIDS!" and "Can't wait until you die, faggot," in the direction of the resident fellow cottage of lecturer Dennis Matthies. University officials later questioned two of the students, who denied making the comments. The third participant - first-year law student Keith Rabois - refused to answer their questions, but sent a letter to the Stanford Daily confirming the allegations. "Admittedly, the comments made were not very articulate, not very intellectual nor profound," Rabois wrote. "The intention was for the speech to be outrageous enough to provoke a thought of 'Wow, if he can say that, I guess I can say a little more than I thought.' " According to Jackson, the case could not be prosecuted as a violation of the Fundamental Standard because the 1990 interpretation concerning discriminatory harassment has several restricting criteria - among them that the speech or other expression must be directed to the targeted person in a face-to-face encounter. "This vicious tirade is protected speech," Jackson said in a Feb. 4 statement to the Daily. "Protection from judicial review and formal sanctions, however, does not translate to silence and inaction on other fronts. "Quite the contrary: We must loudly reject their mean-spirited actions against a resident fellow and a valued member of the Stanford community. This speech may have been 'free,' but it was also juvenile and brutal." Since it was publicized, the incident has prompted emotional debate and condemnation among students and faculty in Stanford residences, on Law School bulletin boards and in letters to campus publications. "My hope was to foster lots of community discussion about the First Amendment, and about the words used by these particular students," Jackson said. "The important fact is that everyone is talking about it and debating it, and reaching their own conclusions. That's terrific and I couldn't have hoped for anything better." Jackson said he would consider doing the same thing again in the future, but added that "each incident deserves to be evaluated singularly." "It may turn out that if something like this happens again, I might try to organize a forum for public discussion," he said. "It depends on the circumstances. I'll have to evaluate each case and make the best judgment."
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