For Stanford senior Katarina van Alebeek, the televised confirmation hearing that led to Brett M. Kavanaugh becoming a U.S. Supreme Court justice was a turning point.
The political science major fumed over the way President Trump and male Republican senators rallied behind Kavanaugh after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a Palo Alto resident, accused him of sexually assaulting her during their high school years in Maryland.
“When you watch really questionable people get to be in those positions … I’m now like, okay, it’s my agency to decide who makes the decisions that affect me,” van Alebeek said.
She is one of many Stanford students who cite Kavanaugh and his confirmation hearing as motivators for becoming politically energized.
“More and more people are less satisfied with …‘I’m going to vote, and that’s good enough,’” said van Alebeek. “I noticed so many people are doing phone canvassing or getting out and encouraging other people to vote.”
The Supreme Court confirmation hearing hit home for a couple of reasons. Dr. Blasey Ford is a research psychologist affiliated with Stanford’s School of Medicine, and the Brock Turner case in 2016 “turned Stanford into the centerpiece of the national conversation” about sexual assault, Martin said.
Echoing the views of GOP senators who supported Kavanaugh, Stanford College Republicans hosted an event in White Plaza on the principle of innocence until proven guilty. The next week, the Women’s Coalition set up a large board proclaiming “We Believe Survivors Because…” Volunteers handed out sticky notes and pens to passersby to finish the sentence.
For many who attended either event, the underlying message was vote.
Claire Dauge-Roth, a sophomore, spent her summer as a public affairs intern for Planned Parenthood in Maine. Her responsibilities varied, from conducting surveys to phoning the office of Susan Collins, one of the state’s two senators, in advance of the Kavanaugh vote.
Returning to Stanford, Dauge-Roth noticed a very different atmosphere than the one she had experienced in Maine.
“Honestly, I think that a lot of people here have the privilege of being detached from politics,” she said. When Collins, a Republican, announced that she would vote to confirm Kavanaugh, Dauge-Roth was at a campus coffee house. “I was just looking around, seeing everyone around me be fine … and I’m crying.”
Antonia Hellman, a sophomore and one of the two co-directors of Stanford Votes, a student initiative that has been working to increase voter engagement, agreed that Stanford’s campus can sometimes seem apolitical. She hopes that her group’s efforts will make voting more mainstream.
“The Kavanaugh confirmation reinforces the fact that no matter who you are, if you’re not happy with something, then hold your representative accountable,” Hellman said.
Feature Image Credit: Purchased from Associated Press Images