Campanile

Iowa State's Campanile located on central campus.

Dear Katherine Kealey and the Iowa State Daily,

Thank you for your thought piece about my settlement from Iowa State. I admire your diligence in trying to figure out the story. It is hard to know what is true based on the events that happened vs. the consequences of those actions and whether the absence of consequences equates with exoneration.  

I would like to request removal of the quote from Carl Weems, where he wishes my family and myself well, and references the duration of our friendship between 2008-2018. 

My reasons are as follows. 

First: Actions speak louder than words. During this process, Weems became physically threatening towards me, lurked outside my office, and repeatedly questioned my integrity using the power of his administrative authority to harpoon me. Words of well-wishing are hollow.

Second: Consent can be withdrawn at any time. Yes, we had been friends before my husband of 22 years and I terminated the friendship. I’m allowed to end a toxic friendship. Our withdrawal of consent should have been respected. I am not a “sexually homophobic prude” or “Voldemort” because I withdrew consent. 

Third: The Clery Act requires students to be notified of sexual assaults on campus. These often say the assault occurred “by an acquaintance” as opposed to “by a rapist”. Language matters. It is Victim Blaming that encourages Silence to mitigate the trauma of sexual assault or harassment with the caveat that the victim knew the perpetrator. 

Fourth: Throughout this process, I have sought not to be supervised directly or indirectly by Weems. I moved offices to avoid triggers. I have carefully created safe spaces. When the sanctity of those spaces was disrespected, I sought legal counsel. I had long ago blocked Weems on social media and as recently as October found him lurking on my LinkedIn page. The quote is directed at me. It is directed at my family. It is a veiled threat meant to pierce the sanctity of my safe spaces where he is not allowed and force me to acknowledge that he still wishes we were friends. It is a trigger. Victims of sexual violence should not have to read that their assailants wish them well. 

Fifth: I would not have consented for this article’s publication had known it would be used as a platform for Weems to converse, indirectly, with me. I fully understand the need for journalistic quotes and that both sides should have a platform. If this quote advanced the story, I would manage the trigger; but it doesn’t add content or clarification of events. It simply shows that after 3.5 years, Weems is still emotional that I “estranged him” from my friendship.

I write this letter in gratitude for your substantial effort in writing and researching this piece as you prepared and completed finals and in gratitude to the Daily for providing me a platform to respond. I have the courage to speak up because I have traversed this experience with support, friendship, love, and camaraderie.  My hope is that victims, along their path towards becoming a survivor, can benefit from learning about someone like them who had the courage to get through the day and find strength in vulnerability. 

Best,

Birdie Shirtcliff

Former Professor & SPIT lab director

Current wife & mother

Disabled first-gen academic

Editor's note: The Iowa State Daily is unable to edit or remove quotes from sources. This letter was in response to an article published about the settlement by the Daily on Dec. 15.

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