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Provost Drell and Dean Satz respond to Framework Task Force report

In a letter to the Faculty Framework Task Force on Race Studies at Stanford, Provost Drell and Dean Satz outline some next steps, including the exploration of a new institute for the study of race, ethnicity and society.

September 14, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you for your thoughtful and thought provoking report addressing the future of race and ethnicity studies at Stanford. We are especially grateful for the time and care you have put into this: we know that time is one of the most valuable resources our faculty possess. We benefit by your generosity.

As we ponder next steps, we’d like to share our thoughts about the report and where we see the most promise in the near term. We have already agreed to the creation of a new department of African and African American Studies, and await the recommendations of the subcommittee formed to oversee that process, so we will not comment further on that here but will turn to the other items addressed in the report.

Stanford should be a leader in the study of race and ethnicity across all of its social dimensions. We completely agree with you that the current structure we have for the study of race and ethnicity is not optimal and that the connections between our excellent centers and programs across the university addressing race and ethnicity are “vague and diffuse.” We also agree that the “hub and spokes” model for connecting our current resources, while probably an improvement over the status quo, would reduplicate many of its limitations. It would be a whole not greater than the sum of its parts. We can do better.

At the other end of the spectrum, we do not see a new school of race studies as desirable or feasible. On the desirability front, we have made enormous advances in the study of race in the different disciplines. For example, no one can study American politics today without addressing issues of race. Just fifteen years ago that was not the case. Our departments have been attracting the very best race scholars in their respective fields and we are committed to continuing this momentum. A new school would weaken and detract from that effort. On the feasibility side, the amount of resources that would be needed to create such a school would be daunting, and the disruption to our existing schools has a potential to produce damages that would be greater than the benefits such a course of action could deliver. We appreciate the thoughtful exploration of this option in the report, but we will not pursue this option further.

Our enthusiasm is focused on the report’s recommendation for the creation of a new institute for the study of race, ethnicity and society. We believe that such an institute would harness and serve the existing centers and programs we have and create a national and even international audience for Stanford research on this topic. In addition to better linking the existing Centers, and Programs, we like the idea of a faculty fellows program; residential summer fellowships; thematic programming; using Stanford’s convening power; and the possibility of appointing senior fellows in some form. While there are many details to work out, we intend to focus our energy on executing this recommendation. As a next step, we will proceed to form an implementation committee to develop a detailed set of recommendations on next steps along with a fundraising plan and timeline for execution. It will be important to align the vision, budgets and philanthropic goals in this next phase to determine funding priorities and feasibility. We anticipate charging this implementation committee this fall.

A final recommendation we wish to comment on is the recommendation to explore the departmentalization of CCSRE. We believe this is a serious recommendation that is worthy of consideration, but have decided to defer that consideration for at least one year and possibly two while the Institute is stood up and the AAAS departmentalization committee does its work. At that point, we will have more clarity on what subsequent steps might still be needed to ensure that Stanford is a leader in both research and teaching in these important areas.

It is a pleasure to thank the task force for the time and effort they have put in to bring us to this juncture and we are excited to move to the future vision that has been so thoughtfully described.

Best regards,

Persis S. Drell

Debra Satz
Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences