September 29, 2018
(Co-written with Liliana Segura)
A GROUP OF alumni from Brett Kavanaugh’s high school is calling on fellow graduates to come forward if they have information about any sexual assaults the Supreme Court nominee committed, stating in a new petition, “Please do not remain silent, even if speaking out comes at some personal cost.”
There have been petitions in support of Kavanaugh from alumni of Georgetown Prep. But in the wake of both Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, some alumni of the all-male school are voicing support for Dr. Ford and asking others to come forward with any information that has been held back.
“We are alumni of Georgetown Prep standing in support of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and in solidarity with women everywhere who have endured sexual assault, violence, and harassment,” the petition begins. “We have heard Dr. Blasey Ford’s courageous and indelible sworn testimony in open hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee and we believe her.” It goes on to state:
Georgetown Prep calls on its graduates to serve others. Principles of ethics, virtue, and justice constitute the foundation of a Prep education. These principles are but empty words unless we act on them. So we are calling on our fellow alumni to put the best of what Prep stands for into action. The Senate has called for an FBI investigation. If you know anything surrounding the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, now is the time to come forward. Whether it is knowledge of specific events in these allegations, or just background to those events, please do not remain silent, even if speaking out comes at some personal cost. If you do not have any knowledge of these events, please join us: add your name and your voice to this call to action. Reach out to other alumni personally. Ask questions, start conversations. Our silence will serve no one.
The petition was posted on Medium today by two graduates of the class of 1986, Fikri Yucel and Bill Barbot. In an interview with The Intercept, Yucel said that when Ford’s allegation first surfaced, he was inclined to believe it, because it is rare for women to come forward with false accusations of sexual assault. “Knowing what I know about sexual assault in general, and putting that together with what I know about that time and place, the student body of Georgetown Prep back in the middle 80s, it was plausible,” he said. “There was certainly a strong streak of sexism and sexual objectification that lots of people just ascribed to boys will be boys.”
Yucel, who is a public health researcher in North Carolina, watched as much as he could of the Senate hearing on Thursday. It was a clarifying event for him. “I was utterly taken with the credibility of Dr. Blasey Ford, and just struck time and again by Brett’s demeanor,” Yucel said. “It just seemed clearer and clearer to me that she’s telling the truth. So when yesterday there was the announcement that the Senate was going to call for further FBI investigations … I think that was the precipitating event.”
Yucel was several years behind Kavanaugh at Georgetown Prep and did not know him and did not attend any parties where he was present. Yucel said he was not part of the school’s party culture, but in his four years at the school he attended several large, alcohol-laden parties similar to those frequented by Kavanaugh and his friends.
“Alcohol was readily available,” Yucel said. “You could go to these parties and not only was it available but among at least a hard core of the partyers, [there was] a great deal of celebration of drinking to excess…The most notable thing about it is a tremendous lack of any parental supervision at these parties. Just kids showing up from all over and no real supervision of any kind. So you can well imagine that when there is a whole bunch of kids and a whole lot of alcohol [and] you have some guys who are both drunk and also looking for some kind of sexual exploit, you know there is some trouble that is going to happen.”
Yucel said that yesterday he drafted the petition and shared it with Barbot, a friend of his from Georgetown Prep. They posted it online this morning, hoping that it will reach and encourage alumni far and wide. “My reach among the alumni community is only so far after all these years,” Yucel said. “I’m in touch with only a relatively small number of Prep graduates. If I got the ball rolling, it might start making its way to other grads I’ve lost contact with or never knew at all. This could be a vehicle for them to add their voices to the conversation. I’m just trying to encourage anybody who has been thinking about this to speak up and let their thoughts be known.”
YUCEL’S FIRST PUBLIC statement on Kavanaugh came on the evening of September 18, in a long post on his Facebook page. It bothered him that he kept hearing the same refrain about Ford – “why come forward now” – while seeing widespread praise and support of Kavanaugh among Prep alumni.
“We have her allegation and his denial,” Yucel wrote. “If we were to know nothing more than that, statistics alone would overwhelmingly suggest that she’s the one telling the truth.” But we do know more than that, he went on. We know what Kavanaugh and Mark Judge, who Ford alleged to be in the room when she was assaulted, wrote on their senior pages in the 1983 yearbook. “Beyond the sports and extracurriculars, there are references to a lot of drinking, partying, and some casual misogyny to boot.”
Yucel’s post echoed much of what the #MeToo movement has brought forward – a recasting of decades-old events in a startling and more sinister light. He said he was “taken aback” remembering the sexism he once took for granted as a teenager, although he also recalled that some things disturbed him even then, such as “hearing a classmate refer to his date as his ‘walking, talking sperm receptacle.’”
Yucel made clear in his Facebook post that he loved his years at Georgetown Prep, “but, holy fuck, man, is it ever the goddamn patriarchy.” He hoped more corroborating information would come to light. “In the meantime, though, I feel completely comfortable saying: I am an alumnus of Georgetown Prep, Class of 1986, and I stand with Christine Blasey Ford.”
On September 19, Barbot responded on Twitter to people he felt were unfairly characterizing the school and its code, “Men for Others.” To Barbot, the code meant taking responsibility for one’s actions and holding each other accountable. “That’s what I got from my Catholic education – not ‘what happens at Prep stays at Prep,’” he tweeted, in a reference to Kavanaugh’s widely-quoted joking remark from 2015. “It’s a shameful mischaracterization on Brett’s part, but betrays his character, I fear.”
Barbot, a musician and the cofounder and president of Threespot, a digital agency, quickly caught the attention of reporters. He was quoted by the New York Times in its story about Renate Dolphin and by the Washington Post about the drinking culture at Prep. “A lot of us didn’t really have a proper education in how to manage yourself in situations that were complicated to manage as a teenager, but incredibly complicated to manage as an inebriated teenager,” he told the Post, making clear that this was “in no way an excuse.”
But like Yucel, Barbot stepped up his actions after the Senate hearing on Thursday. On Twitter, he expressed anger at Trump’s reaction, including the president describing #MeToo as “very dangerous.” On Friday morning Barbot posted the video of sexual assault survivors confronting Senator Jeff Flake in the elevator and described “simmering rage” at Flake’s refusal to look them in the eye. “This is all very close to home for me,” Barbot wrote.
On Saturday afternoon he posted the call to action, tweeting, “An open letter to the Prep community.”
By 6 pm tonight, according to Yucel, 26 people who said they are graduates of Georgetown Prep had asked that their names be added to the petition.