Students, administrators convene process to advance diversity, inclusion at Stanford

In response to concerns raised by a group called the Who's Teaching Us coalition, Stanford leaders and student representatives are convening discussions on multiple subjects focused on advancing diversity and inclusion on campus.

Students and senior Stanford leaders have begun a series of collaborative discussions to investigate and address concerns recently identified by a coalition of students seeking further progress on issues of diversity and inclusion at Stanford.

In a meeting in mid-March, administrators and student representatives of the Who's Teaching Us coalition agreed to pursue a set of structured conversations in each of several issue areas raised by the coalition as areas of concern: faculty and administrative diversity, university curriculum, residential life, extracurricular diversity programs and divestment. Several meetings have occurred and more are now being scheduled.

Stanford President John L. Hennessy also wrote to the coalition expressing his support for the process and the importance to the entire university community of continuing to advance diversity and inclusion.

"These are difficult, longstanding issues, and we must never become complacent in our efforts to create a campus environment that is truly inclusive and a society that recognizes and addresses the concerns of marginalized communities," his letter read in part. "Student voices about their experiences at Stanford, and student ideas for improving those experiences, are critical to making progress together as a university community."

The Who's Teaching Us coalition sent a letter to university leaders on March 14 outlining a list of 25 demands. The next day, March 15, four administrators met with coalition representatives – Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Harry Elam; Vice Provost for Graduate Education Patti Gumport; Matt Snipp, senior associate vice provost for faculty development and diversity; and Nicole Taylor, associate vice provost for student affairs and dean of community engagement and diversity.

In that meeting, agreement was reached on a process for addressing the issues raised by the coalition. That process consists of structured conversations corresponding to the major areas of concern identified by the coalition. The president and provost have assigned senior administrators to be leads for each issue area, and the university is now appointing additional faculty and administrative representatives to each group.

Participants in the March 15 meeting agreed that it would be impossible for the university to respond to the coalition's concerns by the coalition's original April 8 deadline, given the complexity of the issues, the need for analysis and the need to involve stakeholders from across a highly decentralized university. Coalition leaders agreed to move ahead with the issue-based conversations in each area in lieu of their original deadline.

Since the first meeting on March 15, follow-up meetings of coalition and administration representatives have occurred regarding the concerns in the residential life area and regarding the timeline for the overall process. Additional meetings are now being scheduled, primarily pending the availability of students.

Hennessy's March 28 letter to the coalition noted that Stanford has worked over a period of many years to advance diversity and inclusion, and examples of the university's efforts are listed on the Diversity Works website. More progress is needed, he agreed.

"Diversity and inclusion are priorities for Stanford. Moreover, racial and socioeconomic justice in our society should be important issues for all of us," Hennessy wrote. "The academic excellence of our university and the vitality of our broader society both depend upon the empowerment and full participation of people richly diverse in backgrounds, cultures, talents and interests. …

"We look forward to working together on our next steps."

The university is in the process of appointing representatives to each of the discussion groups. The principal administrative leads and other confirmed appointees thus far are:

Faculty/Administrative Diversity: Snipp, Elam, Gumport (leads); Richard Shaw, dean of admission and financial aid (student diversity); additional faculty and administrators to be named.

University Curriculum: Elam, Snipp, Gumport (leads); Richard Saller, dean of humanities and sciences; Tomás Jiménez, associate professor of sociology and director of the undergraduate program in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity; Samy Alim, professor of education and director of the Program in African & African American Studies and of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts; Guadalupe Valdés, professor of education and director of the Program in Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies; Joshua Landy, professor of French and of comparative literature and director of Structured Liberal Education; Deborah Golder, associate vice provost for student affairs and dean of residential education; additional faculty and administrators to be named.

Residential Life: Greg Boardman, vice provost for student affairs (lead); Golder; Koren Bakkegard, associate dean of residential education; Fran'Cee Brown-McClure, associate dean of residential education; Jennifer Calvert, associate dean of residential education; additional faculty and administrators to be named.

Extracurricular Diversity Programs: Boardman, Elam (leads); Tom Schnaubelt, executive director of the Haas Center for Public Service; Karen Biestman, director of the Native American Cultural Center; Jan Barker-Alexander, director of the Black Community Services Center; Cindy Ng, director of the Asian American Activities Center; Ben Davidson, director of the LGBT Community Resources Center; Ramón Saldívar, professor of English and of comparative literature and director of the Bing Overseas Studies Program; Irene Kennedy, associate vice provost and executive director of the Bing Overseas Studies Program; Elizabeth Hadly, professor of biology and senior associate vice provost for undergraduate education.

Divestment: Alison Colwell, director of investment responsibility stakeholder relations; Sally Dickson, special assistant to the president.

In addition, Associate Vice Provost Nicole Taylor is serving as the lead administrator focusing on overall coordination of the discussions.