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Update on IDEAL and racial justice initiatives

Dear Stanford community,

At the end of June, President Tessier-Lavigne sent a message to the community about some of the efforts the university is taking to advance diversity, inclusion, access and racial justice.

Systemic injustice, and especially anti-Black racism, are essential issues for our country and for our university. At Stanford we believe it is incumbent on us, through our research and teaching, to help make significant and profound improvements towards a more just society. We must also work to ensure that our university is a place where all members of our community are supported and thrive.

I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on some of the efforts underway. We will update you regularly in the coming weeks on our IDEAL and racial justice initiatives.

Many members of our community — students, staff and faculty — are stepping up to assist with this important work. I’m deeply grateful to them for their commitment to help Stanford become a more inclusive and equitable institution.

The Provostial IDEAL Fellows Program. We have launched the search to recruit the first cohort of the most outstanding young scholars in the country on race and ethnicity. The scholars will come to Stanford for three years to do independent research and teach courses in our ethnic studies programs. We intend to use the program to create a pipeline of diverse scholars into our faculty. Under the leadership of Matt Snipp, vice provost for Faculty Development, Diversity and Engagement, this program will recruit the first class of IDEAL Fellows to arrive in fall 2021. I am excited about this important effort and we will have more details on this in future communication.

Faculty cluster hires: Stanford is now searching for 10 eminent scholars and researchers who are leaders in the study of the impact of race in America. The search committees for these 10 faculty cluster hires have been put together under the leadership of Deans Jonathan Levin and Debra Satz covering the social sciences and humanities, education, law and business; and under the leadership of Deans Lloyd Minor and Jennifer Widom covering Medicine, Engineering and Sustainability. Professor Claude Steele (Psychology and GSE) will chair the search committee in the social sciences, humanities, law, business and education. Professor Carla Pugh (Surgery) and Professor James Landay (CS) will chair the search in medicine, engineering and sustainability.

Undergraduate education: Last year, at the request of the IDEAL Education leadership team, a faculty committee did a major analysis of our Engaging Diversity requirement. The goal was to ensure that such courses provide students with a rigorous diversity experience and meet the current ED Guidelines as revised in 2017. After thorough review and consideration, the committee recertified 67 courses and decertified 33. We have invited instructors of decertified courses to review the current guidelines and/or consult with the Breadth Governance Board (BGB) and propose revised syllabi.

To ensure greater access to our educational offerings, we’ve eliminated many course fees.

And during the pandemic, we are assisting students with technology and other basic needs so that they may successfully continue their studies remotely.

Student mental health: Student Affairs is launching a formal partnership with the Steve Fund, an organization that works with universities to develop programs and strategies to support the mental health and emotional well-being of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) students.

Community Board on Public Safety: In June, we announced that Claude Steele and Patrick Dunkley were appointed co-chairs. This board will identify issues of safety, make recommendations and provide an avenue for regular community feedback. Over the summer, the president, the co-chairs and I met with student leaders and with chief Laura Wilson, leader of the Department of Public Safety, who provided input on the charge and composition to the board. We expect all board members to be appointed soon; there will be student, faculty and staff representation.

Brave Spaces: This summer more than 1,700 staff members participated in Brave Spaces, a series of virtual forums to openly discuss anti-Black racism, inequality and injustice. The insights have been analyzed and key focus areas have emerged. The IDEAL Staff Advisory Committee, working with Senior Staff, will prioritize goals and develop plans for staff. For now, we will pause the Brave Spaces program to focus on taking action.

Training and education programs: University Human Resources (UHR) curated resources and developed guides for talking about and standing up against racism. UHR has also accelerated plans to provide a learning and development curriculum for staff focused on racism, bias, inclusivity, diversity, social justice, microaggressions and creating an environment where people feel safe to speak up and stand up to racism. Human Resources staff will receive additional training and development. The deans are requiring anti-bias training for all our faculty to help them in the classroom and in hiring. Working with student leaders, Student Affairs has developed a training program with workshops that address identity, cultural differences and building a more inclusive community.

Philanthropic partnership: We’ve engaged our partners in the Office of Development to help us identify areas of IDEAL and the Racial Justice initiatives where we can accelerate progress through philanthropic support. We are working closely with them to ensure that Stanford’s alumni, parents and friends have opportunities to support these important initiatives as they develop. We look forward to sharing fundraising progress in these areas over the coming months.

Future updates

These are just a few of the efforts that are taking place across the campus around issues of racial justice, equity, access and inclusion. In the coming weeks, look for updates on the following:

  • Provostial IDEAL Fellows
  • The Center for Racial Justice at Stanford Law School
  • Black Community Council
  • Conversations around how we are organized academically in our studies of race and ethnicity across campus
  • My conversations with Black staff members

We recognize that we have much work to do. As individuals and as an institution, we must continue working for the truly inclusive university and society that we want to see.

Our aspiration is to change our society for the better while also addressing injustice and underrepresentation within Stanford. This is an ambitious agenda in terms of our scholarship, our education and our culture as an institution.

I embrace the opportunity of this moment to confront these issues to ensure that we become leaders in the fight for justice.

Persis Drell