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Stanford’s IDEAL initiative makes substantial progress toward goals

The campus-wide efforts to promote diversity, equity, access and inclusion have expanded significantly in the academic year 2020-21.

When Stanford launched its IDEAL initiative (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access in a Learning Environment) in 2018, Provost Persis Drell set three ambitious goals: to make sure that diversity of thought, experience, approach and identity is represented in all aspects of the education and research mission; to ensure that all members of the campus community feel they belong and are supported; and to provide equality of access within the community to the opportunities and benefits of Stanford.

Since then, multiple IDEAL efforts have been initiated and advanced in the broad areas of recruitment, education, engagement and research, touching all Stanford populations: undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral scholars, faculty, staff and alumni.

“I’m so pleased to see that we are gaining traction on our IDEAL initiatives. I’m grateful to the many dedicated Stanford community members who have been helping us move toward our goal of creating an inclusive and equitable university for all,” said Provost Persis Drell. “We know that we have more work to do – as individuals, as colleagues and as an institution – but we are already seeing a shift both in our mindset and in our actions.”

In academic year 2020-21, despite the pandemic, fires, financial concerns and other setbacks, several important IDEAL efforts were launched, particularly in the area of racial justice.

Academic programs

The Framework Task Force, which includes faculty from throughout the university, was formed last fall to consider a new infrastructure at Stanford for the study of race and the effects of race on society. In February 2021, it made an early recommendation for the departmentalization of African and African American Studies (AAAS), which was supported by the provost. A subcommittee is now working to develop the details and will present a full proposal to Debra Satz, dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, the Academic Council Advisory Board and, ultimately, the Board of Trustees, which must approve a new department.

The Framework Task Force plans to deliver a full report with other recommendations in July. Claude Steele, co-chair of the task force, said that one of the proposals will be the establishment of an outward-facing research center or similar organization, which is envisioned as a confederation of centers across campus that study race and the consequences of racial inequality.

Last fall, the university launched a search for 10 faculty members under the auspices of two “cluster-hire” search committees – one for humanities and sciences and the other in STEM fields. The new faculty members’ work involves the effects of race on society in disciplines ranging from the humanities and social sciences to law and business to engineering and sustainability. Offers have been made to candidates and, to date, four have accepted, including Elizabeth A. Reese, the first Native American to become a member of the Stanford Law School faculty. Formal announcements about the new faculty members will be forthcoming.

The IDEAL Provostial Fellows program is part of an effort to increase the university’s research and teaching related to race and ethnicity. In March, Provost Persis Drell announced the first cohort of five early-career scholars who will join the Stanford campus community for three years beginning this fall. The five scholars are Catherine Duarte, epidemiology; Kelly Nguyen, classics; Eujin Park, educational policy studies; Michaela Simmons, sociology; and Jordan Starck, psychology. They will teach one course per year while they expand on their research, as well as organize a major Stanford conference on the study of race and ethnicity.

Recruitment for the next cohort of scholars for 2021-22 is about to begin, according to C. Matthew Snipp, vice provost for faculty development, diversity and engagement.

Research initiatives

In February, Stanford released new demographic data about students, faculty and staff on three new dashboards on the IDEAL website. After the release of the first IDEAL dashboards in 2019, the top request from the campus community was to have information in greater detail. Provost Drell said the goal in releasing more details about the composition of the Stanford community is “to improve transparency about who we are and monitor our progress toward all forms of equality.” The dashboards will be updated annually.

In May, the Stanford DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) Survey was administered, which focused on the individual experiences of community members. More than 40,000 Stanford community members – faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, students in the professional programs, postdoctoral scholars, staff and academic staff – were invited to participate. The survey included questions about race/ethnicity and other identities, experiences of inclusion in the workplace or academic program, as well as questions about experiences with harassing or discriminatory behavior. The university will publish the results in fall 2021 and plans to use the findings to help address problems and make decisions about where to put its resources.

Racial justice initiatives

Last summer, in response to safety concerns on campus raised by community members, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne established the Community Board on Public Safety and appointed Patrick Dunkley, then deputy athletic director, and Claude Steele, professor emeritus of psychology, as co-chairs. A committee was formed with faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, staff and community representatives, along with members of Stanford’s Department of Public Safety (DPS). The board was charged with producing a set of recommendations to ensure the university is effectively addressing safety concerns and is promoting and maintaining a healthy and safe environment for all.

After months of gathering community input, analyzing data, and meeting with leaders and various committees and coalitions across the campus, the board is now finalizing its recommendations in a report that will be presented to the president, the provost, general counsel and the director of public safety this month. The report will be made available to the Stanford community. The board will continue its work by monitoring the effectiveness of those recommendations, and considering whether further recommendations are appropriate.

“It is essential that all members of the Stanford community feel welcomed and safe and our campus. The Community Board is playing a vital role in hearing the concerns of the community and developing recommendations to enhance our efforts to provide for public safety,” said Tessier-Lavigne. “I’m looking forward to receiving the report so that we may use it to address existing problems and make concrete improvements to campus safety.”

Last fall, President Tessier-Lavigne announced the formation of the Black Community Council, chaired by Stanford trustee Charles Young. The council is charged with oversight of the initiatives focused on supporting the university’s Black community. Council members have been providing feedback on issues affecting Stanford’s Black community and making recommendations directly to senior university leadership. The council is composed of faculty, staff, student and alumni representatives. Young said that the council’s work has been focused on three main areas: campus culture, academic programs and research, and enhanced support for current programs.

The Center for Racial Justice at Stanford Law School was founded in June 2020 by Stanford Law Professor Ralph Richard Banks and Associate Dean for Public Service and Public Interest Law Diane Chin to address racial inequality and division in America. The center has been focusing on three areas where change is urgently needed: criminal justice and policing, educational equity, and economic security and opportunity. Some recent projects include working with the Graduate School of Education (GSE) to examine structural racism in the U.S. public school system and how to develop anti-racist education. Stanford students and faculty have also been participating in policy labs examining the role of policing in local communities and developing recommendations for reform.

Establishing new leadership roles and staff initiatives

In April, Provost Drell announced new appointments intended to lead equity and inclusion efforts at Stanford. Dunkley was named vice provost for institutional equity, access and community. In this role, he serves as executive director of the university’s IDEAL and racial justice initiative. He also directs the Office of Institutional Equity and Access, providing leadership for critical programs that support internal communities at Stanford. Shirley Everett, senior associate vice provost for Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE), was named senior adviser to the provost on equity and inclusion and will represent the voices of front-line staff and the needs of staff communities of color at Stanford, in addition to her role leading R&DE.

The IDEAL Staff Advisory Committee was formed to help transform university culture to ensure that the community and the university’s processes are diverse, equitable and inclusive. The committee guides the strategic direction of the IDEAL initiative for staff, and proposes programs and initiatives to further diversity and inclusion. Committee members represent schools and units across campus and partner with the IDEAL project team to prioritize efforts and advance issues and recommendations to Stanford leadership. This year, the committee created a strategic framework to serve as a roadmap for their work.

Training and education programs

This summer, the Office of the Provost, in partnership with the IDEAL Staff Advisory Committee, will launch two significant DEI initiatives: a series of strategic alignment sessions for hundreds of Stanford leaders starting in August and a comprehensive educational program for staff – The IDEAL Learning Journey – beginning later this month. These efforts are aimed at advancing the university’s commitment to ensuring training and professional development is widely offered on critical topics of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Philanthropic efforts

Working with the Office of Development, the university identified areas of IDEAL and the Racial Justice initiatives where philanthropic support could accelerate progress. To date, the university has received two major gifts from alumni to support the Black Community Services Center, Ujamaa student residence and the Asian American Activities Center. The funds will help strengthen and programs and resources for those communities. Other funding opportunities to strengthen Stanford’s DEI initiatives are currently in the works.

To read more about the recent accomplishments of the IDEAL initiative in the areas of recruitment, education, engagement, research and racial justice, visit the website. Information can also be found there about how Stanford’s seven schools are implementing independent projects and programs to align with the goals of IDEAL.