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Election season at Stanford

Dear members of our Stanford community,

As we enter the final stretch of this election season, we want to encourage all members of our community to participate in the democratic process. This election has elicited strong passions throughout our country. Many in our community, across the political spectrum, are thinking ahead to November 3rd, focused on the outcome and its implications for our society and the world. We’d like to share a few thoughts about our aspirations for our Stanford community during this election season.

First and foremost, we want to encourage everybody who is eligible to vote. Voter registration deadlines are approaching in many states, so if you have not yet registered, don’t delay. The student-led StanfordVotes campaign has dedicated hundreds of hours to register members of the Stanford community, provide non-partisan voting information, and encourage participation in this year’s election. They have made a tremendous contribution to democratic engagement at Stanford, and we are deeply grateful for their efforts.

For those who live locally, Tresidder Union will again be a polling place this year. Anyone voting in Santa Clara County may vote in person or drop off their ballot at Tresidder between October 31st and Election Day. All campus public health measures will be in effect to help ensure a safe voting space. Voting information for faculty, staff, students, and postdocs who live in the other Bay Area counties can be found at the California Secretary of State website. The university is also providing additional time off this year for all faculty and staff to vote.

For those who are not eligible to vote, or who wish to volunteer additional time, there are other ways to participate, as well: from registering friends and family, to participating in the Love Vote campaign, to joining civic organizations, like Stanford in Government.

No matter how you get involved, please remember that the university has important policies regarding the use of Stanford’s name and resources. It’s critical that every member of our community is familiar with these rules. Of course, you are more than welcome to share your voices as individuals, not representing the university.

Being a part of the Stanford community during an election season is special: it gives all of us the opportunity to contend with the issues within a rigorous academic context. Several classes this fall are covering this year’s election and its implications, and the course Democracy Matters, which focuses on important issues shaping this election, has opened its sessions to our entire community—students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Community centers, residential communities, student organizations, and academic departments will also be hosting virtual events in the coming weeks to gather the community for discussion and support. We hope you will participate in some of these conversations.

At Stanford, we believe that facts and scientific knowledge should provide the basis for public policy decisions and ground our discussion of the issues. Because we value academic freedom and a diversity of ideas, disagreement is inevitable. But we aspire to be a community in which an intellectually rigorous and fact-based approach gives us common ground for fruitful discussions, even about the most contentious topics. Debating the issues in good faith helps all of us sharpen our ideas and how we articulate them, and gives us a stronger understanding of other points of view.

As we debate the merits of our ideas over the next few weeks, it’s also essential that we do so with respect and care for all members of our university community. The pandemic, the national reckoning with issues of racial inequality, and the economic crisis have had dramatic effects on our society. Many are feeling the immediacy of how political issues and policy decisions can impact their own lives, and the lives of their loved ones and communities. In this divisive political season, when many feel worried and vulnerable, it’s more important than ever to extend respect and support to one another. 

This has been an unprecedented year, capped by a contentious election season. But while elections highlight our differences, approaching the issues in a spirit of engaged dialogue, with a dedication to truth, facts, and the inherent humanity of all of us will help strengthen our bonds as a community. We hope that you embrace the opportunity for civic participation over the next month, and that you join us in fostering a culture of respect, reasoned discussion of ideas, and seeking understanding across difference.


Marc Tessier-Lavigne

Persis Drell