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Casper responds to criticism on multicultural issues

STANFORD -- Saying he hoped the campus would act on facts rather than suspicions, President Gerhard Casper responded strongly to a statement on student access and multicultural issues at the Faculty Senate on Thursday, May 27.

The statement was by Associate Professor Ross Shachter, engineering-economic systems, which, following informal senate tradition, Shachter had provided to the president in advance.

Shachter publicly told Casper that there is an increasing fear among faculty, staff and students "that the university has backed away from some of its multicultural commitment."

"There is also a growing sense among students," Shachter said, "that their potentially valuable input is not being sought and that their worries are not being heard."

He said that many feel the president should not only support multiculturalism, but also take a leading role in promoting it.

"Until communication on these issues is improved, an atmosphere of mistrust and discomfort will persist," he said. "I beg you, please take some substantive positions on these issues and work to improve community dialogue to dispel this unfortunate anxiety."

To a list of concerns in Shachter's statement, Casper responded point by point.

  • Shachter: Absence of student representation this year on the University Committee on Minority Issues (UCMI).

Casper: There was no UCMI review panel this year. Two students served on the last review panel, and the cabinet is now formulating a response to the 1991 review.

"I would like to point out," Casper said, "that it was I who rescued UCMI from the Office of Multicultural Development. It had not been attended to. I was the one who said, 'Put it back on the agenda.' "

  • Shachter: Fears that the new head of the Office for Multicultural Development might no longer attend meetings of the president's cabinet (whose members are the president, provost, school deans, dean of research, and the directors of the Hoover Institution and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center).

Casper: "I have no intention of making the Office for Multicultural Development lose its cabinet role."

  • Shachter: Allegedly new restrictions on the Council of Presidents' access to Casper.

Casper: He said he did not know where that rumor had originated since "this year we have no Council of Presidents." He said next year's council may have requested a meeting through the dean of students and been told that Casper's calendar was already full for the rest of the spring quarter.

Shachter: Cursory 10-minute initial visits Casper made to the ethnic centers, "leaving students feeling frustrated rather than honored."

Casper: He said his heart sank when he saw the schedule, and he asked if it could be rearranged, but that was not possible. "My frustration was at least as high as that of the students as I rushed from one of the centers to the next," he said.

To illustrate the difficulty of finding time on his calendar, Casper then recounted his introductory year: lunches and dinners with faculty three to four times a month; periodic visits to dorms, including reading a bedtime story at one (laughter from the senators); meetings with minority groups; appearances at the student senate each quarter; monthly lunches with randomly selected staff; visits to fraternities, sororities, labs, centers, institutes and schools; remarks at various welcoming and farewell receptions, building openings, conferences, and faculty, student and staff award ceremonies; and attendance at "glorious" football games.

"I met with the editorial boards of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Wall Street Journal, the San Jose Mercury-News, the San Diego Union Tribune, the Sacramento Bee and the Orange County Register," Casper said.

He also attended, he said, 16 alumni receptions and spoke at each.

"I did development calls and met with government officials," he said. "I gave two guest lectures in CIV courses. I made 33 speeches and declined 175 invitations" since January because of schedule conflicts.

On top of that, Casper said he attended to his duties in running the university and engaged in major projects: administrative reorganization; Humanities and Sciences reorganization; Packard Hospital consolidation agreement; domestic partners benefits; development priorities; new benefits plan for faculty and staff; external affirmative action plan; the President's Task Force on Strategic Planning for the Medical Center; settlement of a major lawsuit; selection of new provost, H&S dean and general counsel; the sexual harassment policy; conflict of interest and conflict of commitment policies; and trying "to make sure we were making progress on the UCMI report."

Among his routine tasks, Casper said, were "passing on appointments, meeting with the Advisory Board, and so on."

He said that anyone who wanted an appointment with him would have to do it at 4 a.m. - "this morning I was up at 4 o'clock."

Casper concluded by announcing that the Irvine Foundation just gave the university a $1 million grant for multicultural efforts.

Shachter said after the meeting that he was pleased that the Office of Multicultural Development will continue to have a cabinet seat and that he sympathized with Casper's busy schedule.

"I understand how busy he is, and I appreciate how many complex and important issues he is working on," Shachter said.

Shachter, who is resident fellow in Serra House, where Casper read the bedtime story, said that he has heard from students who were at three different ethnic centers during the president's hurried visits.

"The impression the students had afterward was of a perfunctory visit," Shachter said. "He didn't say anything about the importance of the centers and the role of the centers, even today."

In interviews with student and other news media, however, Casper has talked of the value of the centers. And in development priorities unveiled in April, expendable support for the ethnic centers was one of three objectives marked for presidential attention.

Still, Shachter said he was disappointed that Casper "has not said quite enough to dispel the suspicions people have."

"I was not trying to attack him. I was trying to tell him there's a misconception - I hope it's a misconception - out there. I would have liked him to make a stronger statement.

"It would have been helpful if he had said 'one of the most important things we can be doing at the university is setting a multicultural goal and taking leadership with respect to universities and taking leadership on campus and taking leadership through the community.'

"There needs to be positive pressure from the top," Shachter said.


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