September 7, 2017

EDITORIAL: Reed Steberger ’13 Must Withdraw from District 4 Race

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Editors Note: Reed Steberger ’13 ended their candidacy for Tompkins County Legislature Thursday night.   

In less than one week, Democrats will head to the polls to elect their nominees for the Tompkins County legislature. In District 4, incumbent Rich John ’81, who won a write-in campaign four years ago, is being challenged by Reed Steberger ’13. No candidate in the race has been endorsed by this paper. However, following a disturbing report in The Sun about Steberger’s conduct while at Cornell University, we are calling on Steberger to drop out of contention for this seat.

Steberger, who has been endorsed by the Working Families Party and the Tompkins County Progressives, allegedly forced three women into non-consensual encounters while Steberger was a student at Cornell. Two of the women have spoken to The Sun on the record about their experiences. Although Steberger, who prefers gender-neutral pronouns, was never charged with a crime, they do not deny that any of the incidents took place, instead remarking that they “had difficulty in navigating that power and privilege affect my behavior,” and that they know that their “actions have hurt people.”

The behavior Steberger exhibited while a student here, just a few years ago, is in no way becoming of a public servant or a person who seeks to be one. The repeated nature of their actions, coupled with their decision not to publicly reconcile with their past until today’s report, leads us to have insurmountable doubts about their ability to represent and serve the people of District 4. Steberger’s continued presence in the race is hurtful to the alleged victims, and is a disservice to Steberger supporters as well as all Tompkins County residents. Steberger should withdraw immediately, apologize to their supporters, the Democratic Party and the women they acknowledge harming. All organizations endorsing Steberger’s campaign should pull their endorsements as well.

As Cornell continues its struggle against sexual assault on campus, it is of utmost importance that we hold our leaders and their behavior to the highest standards. This is an issue we can not afford to ignore or overlook. The Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights has more active Title IX investigations into Cornell than into any other university in America. We have already seen the damage caused by electing a president with a history of alleged sexual assault — we cannot let the same happen here in Ithaca. Reed Steberger must withdraw, for the good of everyone.