With a name like “The Way Forward: Title IX Advocacy in the Trump Era,” it might seem natural that the upcoming conference at Stanford University would feature the president’s image on its website and poster.
So thought Michele Dauber, the Stanford law school professor who organized the conference and is leading a recall movement against a local judge who gave a light sentence to a former Stanford athlete convicted of sexual assault.
But the image the controversial professor chose was anything but presidential: A screen grab of Trump from the leaked Access Hollywood video in which he boasted in graphic language about groping women.
When Dauber asked to use it on the event website, the university’s office of communications turned her down, saying the image could be seen as partisan.
So Dauber chose a different image for the campus’ website — a sea of women in pink hats from the January Women’s March on Washington. Initially, the communications office rejected that too, but the university’s general counsel’s office eventually approved it.
Never one to be easily muzzled, Dauber says she thought she could use the Trump screen grab for the event poster instead, since the discussion had solely been about using it on the university website. But when an email of the poster was circulated Thursday, the communications office ordered the event staff not to print it.
Dauber then offered to remove Stanford’s name as well as the school’s cardinal color, and pay for printing the posters, which were set to be tacked up only around campus.
Once again, the communications office rejected the idea, saying she could appeal to the general counsel’s office.
Worried that she wouldn’t get an answer in time for the May 1-2 conference, Dauber gave up — and contacted The Guardian newspaper in Britain, thus ensuring that the poster, the conference and her message about the university allegedly impinging on her academic freedom would get far more play in the media than they would have otherwise.
A spokeswoman for the university noted in an email that Dauber could have waited for a decision by the general counsel’s office, which had sided with her on the women’s march image for the website.
“She said she wanted to think about it’ last night (Thursday), and instead contacted the media rather than seek a decision from the final campus authority,” spokeswoman Lisa Lapin said in an email. “The university has made no final decision in this matter.”
Dauber denied Friday that the photo was partisan, saying that “challenging content” that provokes discussion is not the same thing as biased content.
“Difficult content and difficult conversations about controversial issues are what you are supposed to be able to have at universities,” Dauber said.
But Lapin said, “The law school staff member is not the final authority on political activities….”
In raising concerns about the Trump image, the communications office may be taking a practical path rather than just a principled one. On Thursday, faculty Senate met to discuss Trump’s budget proposal, which some worry could reduce the university’s research funding.