Stanford announces next steps to support campus communities
Two campus committees are being convened to focus on strengthening support for campus communities as the Israel-Hamas war continues.
Stanford will accelerate existing initiatives and pursue new ones to support communities on campus that have been deeply affected by the Israel-Hamas war in recent weeks and by its repercussions in the campus community.
“Members of our community have been feeling pain, fear, anger, and invisibility as they have confronted the ugliness of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other expressions of hatred, both here on our campus and in the wider world,” said Stanford President Richard Saller.
“We have been listening carefully to the members of multiple communities at Stanford to understand their experiences and their concerns. The steps we are now taking are intended to respond to specific needs of our communities, to support the well-being of our community members, and to foster the atmosphere of open, civil, deeply informed discussion that is important for Stanford and our educational mission.”
The initiatives include two major components:
- Accelerating elements of the work charged to the university’s existing Jewish Advisory Committee through a new Antisemitism, Bias, and Communication Subcommittee: Elements of the work charged to the Jewish Advisory Committee, created this spring, are being assigned to a new subcommittee whose focus will be on aspects of the committee charge most urgently in need of action as highlighted by recent events on campus. The subcommittee, composed of faculty, staff, students, and alumni, will focus on recommendations for immediate action as well as the development of longer-term recommendations to combat antisemitism at Stanford, to enhance safety and support, and to build community.
- Creating a new Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian Communities Committee: This group will be composed of faculty, staff, students, and alumni and charged with making recommendations to university leadership on ways the university can combat Islamophobia, improve the campus experience, and enhance safety and support for members of the Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities. This committee will prioritize issues that can have an impact in the current climate while simultaneously addressing long-term and sustainable solutions.
Additional information about these initiatives is below. They build on efforts the university already has been undertaking, also described below, to support students and provide for public safety on campus.
“Educational institutions have an obligation to foster open, respectful, and substantive conversations about the hardest issues facing the world,” said Stanford Provost Jenny Martinez. “We have to manage to do two things at once: combat antisemitism, anti-Muslim bias, and other forms of hatred, while also creating the positive conditions that allow people to freely exchange ideas in an environment free of fear. Doing so will require people to work together with compassion, curiosity, and courage.”
“We remain extremely concerned about episodes of antisemitism and Islamophobia on our campus, which we condemn in the strongest possible terms,” Martinez said. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office is continuing its investigation of a Nov. 3 hit-and-run incident on campus as a hate crime motivated by Islamophobia. As has been reported on the Protected Identity Harm dashboard, swastikas, an abhorrent antisemitic symbol, were reported in a handful of locations on campus last week. Law enforcement is investigating under the California Penal Code provision that criminalizes the display of the Nazi swastika for the purpose of terrorizing a person at a school or college campus.
Anyone with information regarding these incidents is encouraged to contact the Stanford Department of Public Safety at (650) 723-9633. Updates on these and other investigations will continue to be posted on the dashboard as available.
Committee on Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian Communities
One new initiative Stanford is undertaking is the creation of a Committee on Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian Communities to focus more intently on the needs and concerns of members of these communities, and to receive recommendations on enhancing their experience at Stanford.
The task force will be co-chaired by Alexander Key, associate professor of comparative literature, and Abiya Ahmed, director of The Markaz Resource Center and associate dean of students. Additional faculty, staff, student, and alumni members will be named in the coming days.
In its charge, the task force is being asked to:
- Provide recommendations on how to educate the community on the sources and effects of Islamophobia, anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias, and approaches for eliminating these actions and behaviors
- Develop strategies and a plan for fostering dialogue with all involved communities, including Jewish communities, to build a more cohesive campus environment
- Make recommendations on how to improve the experience of Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian members of the Stanford community
Antisemitism, Bias, and Communication Subcommittee of the Jewish Advisory Committee
Stanford also is undertaking the acceleration of key parts of the agenda of an existing committee focused on enhancing Jewish life on campus.
In the spring of 2023, Stanford created the Jewish Advisory Committee to assess and enhance Jewish life at the university, following the report of the Advisory Task Force on the History of Jewish Admissions and Experience at Stanford.
Progress has been made in a number of areas highlighted by the task force. Stanford’s Faculty Senate changed the academic calendar to avoid a conflict with Yom Kippur at the beginning of fall quarter 2023. Discussions have been under way to help clarify the university’s relationship with Stanford Hillel. And, Stanford is now working to expand kosher dining available to students on campus from five days per week to seven days, as well as increasing the number of meals each day from two to three.
However, to meet the challenges of the current moment and accelerate action, the university is creating a subcommittee with additional faculty participation and a new charge. That charge asks the new Antisemitism, Bias, and Communication Subcommittee to:
- Provide recommendations on how to educate the community and take measures designed to reduce, eliminate, and respond to antisemitism
- Develop strategies and a plan to foster dialogue with the Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities, as well as other communities
- Consider ways to partner with members of the Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities to build a more cohesive community
The subcommittee will be co-chaired by Ari Kelman, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education who is the Jim Joseph Professor in Education and Jewish Studies, and by Rabbi Laurie Hahn Tapper, associate dean in the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life. Additional faculty, staff, student, and alumni members will be named in the coming days.
Building on campus support, safety efforts
The new initiatives announced today build on steps Stanford has taken in recent weeks to support students and provide for public safety on campus. Those steps include:
- Third-party review of campus safety: In addition to deploying additional security at key locations and events on campus in recent weeks, the university has launched an independent third-party campus safety review. The review is being conducted by The Riseling Group, which has been advising the university’s Community Board on Public Safety. The review will inform short-term action steps, if appropriate, as well as considerations for longer-term strategies to provide for campus safety, building on the previous work of the Community Board. In particular, The Riseling Group will be focused on evaluating safety processes, practices, and protocols in response to geopolitical events that affect campus climate. This work will include an assessment of the sense of safety and threat perceived by university stakeholders.
- Support resources: Stanford has been working to provide students with a range of campus resources. These have included expanded mental health services; reporting mechanisms for acts of Islamophobia and antisemitism; assistance with the safe and effective planning of campus events; and individualized and group support through the university’s residential life, spiritual care, and community-based centers. Student Affairs, Hillel at Stanford, the Markaz, the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life, and others have been key partners in providing care and support for students. The president, provost, and other university leaders have been meeting with a range of community groups to understand these support needs as they have been evolving.
- Informational resources: Many concerns that have come to the university have been about challenging interactions between individuals. The university has worked to provide clear information about protected and unprotected speech, convey the university’s firm stance against antisemitism and Islamophobia, and encourage the community to pursue, as Provost Martinez has said, “the principles that make higher education work … free inquiry, analytic rigor, evidence-based argument, emotional acuity, and curiosity about what people of widely divergent perspectives, identities, expertise, and experiences feel, believe, and have to say.”