What happens on the Internet, stays on the Internet. And sometimes, years later, it catches up to haunt you.
Stanford University Provost and Professor John Etchemendy sent a scathing email to the school’s student body on Friday, widely condemning a series of recently unearthed sexist, raucous emails sent years ago by Evan Spiegel, an alumnus of the school who is now the founder of disappearing mobile messaging startup Snapchat.
The emails, which were discovered by Sam Biddle of Valleywag, depict Spiegel as the embodiment of the “tech bro” cum frat boy culture, chock full of sexist rallying cries to pledge brothers on a fraternity email list.
“We can choose to turn a blind eye to such statements and chalk them up to youthful indiscretion,” Etchemendy wrote in the campus-wide email on Friday. “Or we can be more courageous, and affirmatively reject such behavior whenever and wherever we see it, even — no, especially — if it comes from a friend, a classmate, or a colleague. Only if we choose the latter will we create the kind of university culture we all can be proud of, all of the time.”
Etchemendy’s words come as no surprise. Stanford prides itself not only as an engineering wellspring for tech recruiters around Silicon Valley, but also as a place to foster innovation in young, would-be entrepreneurs — much like Spiegel, who co-founded Snapchat while still attending the school. For a former student to represent the school in such an unflattering light — especially with Spiegel’s stanford.edu extension stamped all over every email — certainly isn’t good for the institution’s public image.
The emails also surfaced at a particularly sensitive time for Silicon Valley types, given the rising tide of anti-tech culture sentiment seen in the Bay Area amid rapid increases in housing and the cost of living across the region.
CEO Spiegel gave a swift response shortly after Valleywag published the emails, condemning his earlier words. “I’m sorry I wrote them at the time and I was jerk to have written them,” he told Business Insider. “They in no way reflect who I am today or my views towards women.”
But the damage has been done, and Spiegel’s alma mater is working fast to distance itself and its current student body from the type of mentality depicted in the emails in question.
“Members of our community should learn now, not many years from now, how abhorrent those attitudes are, whether real or feigned,” Etchemendy wrote. “Let us strive to be role models in our interactions with others.”