The letter, sent on the evening of February 28, says her degree has been suspended and she could be removed from the university, according to court documents. Meyer, 22, quickly responded that she was “shocked and distraught.”
The soccer star who helped lead the team to a national championship in 2019 was found unresponsive in her dorm room hours later, in what investigators ruled was a suicide. The email was still open on her computer.
Meyer’s parents sued Stanford for wrongful death, arguing that the university acted “negligently and recklessly” in its handling of the disciplinary case.
“The disciplinary charge of Stanford’s after-hours, reckless nature and submissive manner caused Katie to suffer an acute stress reaction that impulsively led to her suicide,” said the complaint filed last week in Santa Clara County Superior Court. “Katie’s suicide was completed without planning and in response only to the shocking and deeply distressing information she received from Stanford University while she was alone in her room without any support or resources.”
The suit comes amid a mental health crisis on college campuses, with students reporting higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. At least nine students at Stanford have committed suicide since 2019, the complaint said. It argued that high-achieving students at the prestigious university have perfectionistic tendencies that lead to increased stress and anxiety.
In response to news of the lawsuit, Stanford University released a statement defending its actions and denying the allegations, saying they were “false and misleading”.
“The Stanford community continues to mourn Katie’s tragic death and we sympathize with her family for the unimaginable pain Katie’s passing has caused,” the statement read. “However, we strongly disagree with any assertion that the university was responsible for her death.”
“What if Yale finds out?”
According to the complaint, the incident leading to the disciplinary action occurred in August 2021, when Mayer, while riding her bicycle, spilled coffee on a female soccer player who was accused of assaulting a 17-year-old soccer player. Meyer said the leak was an accident. But the lawsuit argued that even if it was believed to be premeditated, Stanford should have considered that Meyer “was defending the victim (and co-worker) of a sexual assault” and that it was “slight in nature.”
It was alleged that the footballer, who was not identified and according to the lawsuit did not face disciplinary charges, did not feel the incident warranted a complaint to the university. But the dean of residential education reported the incident to Stanford’s Office of Community Standards, which launched an investigation. In its statement, the university said the complaint against Meyer’s alleged conduct “resulted in bodily injury” and that conducting a review was office practice. It also said that an allegation about a football player kissing a football player without his consent was reported by Stanford University to the Title IX office but that “the criteria for the investigation proceeding were not met.”
Meyer met with an official about the coffee complaint in late September. She said she was upset at the looming disciplinary action because she was a senior hoping to get accepted to Stanford Law School and didn’t want to be derailed. She has never been in trouble. Two months later, I filed an official statement about the coffee spill with the Office of Community Standards. She again spoke of her fears about her future, saying she had been “nervous for months” and “terrified that an accident would ruin my future”.
“All my life I have been terrified of making any mistakes,” she wrote. “No liquor, no speeding tickets, no A’s on my report cards. Everything had to be perfect to get in and stay at Stanford. I suffer from anxiety and perfectionism, as do a lot of math. We know very well that in professional settings, women have everything Something to lose and she has to work twice as hard to prove she is competent and professional, any mistake made amplified, any attitude of assertiveness demonized.”
As the months passed without contact from the Community Standards office, Meyer began to believe the process was over — especially because she had been selected for the university’s Mayfield Fellowship programme.
Then, on February 25, a dean from the office sent her an email saying that a series of documents had been added to her case and an indictment would be issued soon. The email asked her to provide additional exculpatory evidence by February 28. It was not clear if Meyer read the letter, the lawsuit said, noting that she was a residential assistant, full-time freshman and Division I athlete juggling a slew of responsibilities.
She spent February 28th going to classes, soccer practice, and a Mayfield Fellows event. She turned her face to her mother and sisters that evening about spring break plans, then emailed her mother about a trip she had booked.
The email from the Office of Community Standards, which said the official had “determined that the charge standard in this matter is met,” arrived at about 7 p.m. Six months after the date of the coffee incident, it was the last day Stanford could take action on this matter. Issue before the statute of limitations expires under university policy.
Katie had run challenges in the past, however, receiving the email from the OCS office informing her that she had been charged with violating an essential standard, that her degree was pending and that she faced removal from the university had led her to believe that all her plans had been upended, making all of her work The hard work was for nothing, leaving her in an intense emotional loop with loss of purpose, feelings of embarrassment and humiliation, and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness,” the suit said.
Computer forensics showed that Meyer “was frantically flipping through the letter and attachments and researching how to defend a disciplinary complaint.”
Her body was found the next day. The lawsuit called her death a “reckless suicide”.
After Suicide, College Athletes Press NCAA: ‘This Is A Crisis’
In its statement, Stanford said it decided to move forward with the disciplinary charge and hold a hearing “after extensive fact-finding and an opportunity for both sides to provide information.” Administrators are “committed to supporting students through the OCS student judicial process, and we did in this case,” the statement said, noting that Meyer was offered a counsel and told she could have a support person in any conversations with the office. She was also given a phone number that she could call for support 24 hours a day.
However, the suit notes that last year a university panel concluded that the disciplinary process was “excessively punishing” and time-consuming. He argued that “the proceedings leading to Katie Meyer’s death began and ended with Stanford University.” Meyer’s parents, Stephen and Gina Meyer, have since started an organization aimed at providing support for students dealing with difficult circumstances.
Katie’s Save aims to make their daughter’s dreams of doing “big things” come true. Meyer, who majored in international relations and hoped to work in public service, has spoken of his desire to make an impact. The lawsuit refers to a citation she submitted to a college publication in November 2021.
“There will be a day when all the Stanford athletes will hang up their belts and ask themselves, ‘What next? Meyer said. “I want to make the world a better place and we need more optimists who believe they can be that change.”