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Stanford Report, March 11, 1998

Der speaks at Asian Staff Forum: 3/11/98

Henry Der urges staff to build ties with students, faculty

BY LISA TREI

Henry Der, deputy superintendent for the California Department of Education, told people at an Asian Staff Forum meeting on March 6 that they must join with faculty and students to empower minorities and women on campus.

"I think most institutions, including Stanford, can demonstrate that they have the numbers in place to show there is a modicum of representation," he said. "In aggregate terms, we can say we have made progress. What is really at stake is that minorities and women do not feel empowered in these institutions. That goes to the core of the institution, how [it] is structured and organized."

According to statistics from the Office for Multicultural Development, minorities made up 31 percent of the 5,672-strong workforce last year, up from 28 percent in 1990. In 1997, two-thirds of staff were women, a figure that has not greatly changed since 1990.

Der said that an institution like Stanford, where everyone is highly educated, can be an oppressive place to work because people are expected to discuss their problems sensibly. "Everyone acts like they get along," he said. "You never have knock-down, drag-out battles." But if staff are sometimes considered subservient to faculty, who are already dealing with their own internal tensions, problems faced by less-powerful groups may persist.

"You have these multi-layer dynamics going on in an institution of higher learning and it makes it very difficult for minorities and women to say [they] have some issues that need to be addressed," Der said.

While Der praised Stanford for its ethnically diverse student body, he said that students, who often act as the catalyst for change within an academic institution, have not connected with staff and faculty here.

"Stanford still has an image of a lily-white institution," he said. "People here are very bright, they're aware of many of the issues, but there needs to be more organizing, a connection between students and staff. There is underutilized potential. People in the larger world don't look to Stanford for issues of race and ethnicity and that is a tragic statement." SR