Preserving free speech and safety on White Plaza
Update, February 17, 2024: Overnight camping in White Plaza has ended. As of early Saturday morning, no overnight campers remained present in the plaza, but tents and other objects from the Sit-In to Stop Genocide remained. These items were removed. Property can be reclaimed from the Department of Public Safety during normal business hours next week.
As previously announced, going forward the university will allow tabling in White Plaza from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., consistent with the area’s use as a space for free expression. Updated guidelines for these activities beginning Tuesday, Feb. 20, will be available later this weekend on the Office of Student Engagement website.
Stanford continues to welcome suggestions for addressing the needs and concerns of our communities amid the ongoing events in Gaza and Israel. Both the Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian Communities Committee and the Subcommittee on Antisemitism and Anti-Israeli Bias of the Jewish Advisory Committee are conducting listening sessions to hear the ideas and perspectives of community members. These committees continue to be an important place to contribute ideas.
Update, February 16, 2024: The events in Gaza and Israel from Oct. 7 onward have been a source of great pain and concern for many members of our Stanford community. Recently the university announced that overnight camping would no longer be allowed in White Plaza, consistent with university policy, out of concern for the health and safety of our students. We support the continued peaceful expression of free speech and advocacy in White Plaza, consistent with the university’s time, place, and manner provisions.
Stanford’s leadership have participated in meetings and a symposium to hear the views of individuals on all sides with respect to the conflict and its ramifications on campus. The objective of these discussions has been to more fully hear the views of the students.
An agreement signed by representatives of the Sit-In to Stop Genocide was that overnight camping would end Friday, Feb. 16, “regardless of the outcome of discussions regarding the stated demands.” As part of the ensuing discussions, university leadership heard a range of demands from student representatives. The president agreed to raise with the Board of Trustees, but not advocate for, three items: (1) the issue of investment transparency, (2) the issue of divestment from weapons manufacturers and military contractors, and (3) the issue of adding student seats to the Special Committee on Investment Responsibility and any ad hoc committees created by the SCIR. (The request is that students added would be 25% of the committee and elected to their position.)
Update, February 13, 2024: The university is pleased that students representing the Sit-In to Stop Genocide have agreed to end overnight camping by this Friday, Feb. 16. The university has agreed to refrain from initiating law enforcement action and Office of Community Standards proceedings until after that time, in order to support an orderly end to overnight camping in White Plaza. The university also has agreed to two further meetings with representatives of the group to further hear its stated demands.
We understand and appreciate the passionately held beliefs of students who are engaged in advocacy on White Plaza. Stanford continues to firmly support the peaceful expression of divergent views by members of our community, and we will continue working to provide for the physical safety and well-being of all members of our community.
Statement of February 8, 2024:
Stanford has been supporting the peaceful expression of free speech on White Plaza by groups representing a variety of viewpoints and perspectives. The university also has been concerned with preserving the physical safety of members of our campus community. This message provides two updates intended to support both objectives with respect to activities on White Plaza.
First, a group of students who have taken over the registered space of the Blue and White Tent group have been told that they need to vacate this space, and that they may register for another space on White Plaza using established procedures for requesting space.
Winds from last weekend’s storm blew down tents associated with the Blue and White Tent display on White Plaza. Since that time, several students have placed and sat in chairs in this space, preventing the Blue and White Tent group from re-establishing there. Taking the space another group was using for free speech and preventing them from re-establishing their presence has escalated the risk of conflict in White Plaza and increased the threat to the safety of members of our community.
The university has informed the students who placed chairs following the storm that they need to vacate the space that was designated for use by the Blue and White Tent group. Failure to do so will result in a disciplinary referral to the Office of Community Standards, and the university may also elect to pursue legal remedies for trespassing. The students have been offered a process for reserving an alternate space in White Plaza. This is the same process that has previously been followed by other groups with a presence in White Plaza, including the Sit-In and the Blue and White Tent.
Second, based on concerns for the physical safety of our community, the university will continue to allow tabling on White Plaza between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., consistent with White Plaza’s use as a space for free expression, but overnight displays and camping will no longer be permitted. This applies equally to all groups with a presence on White Plaza.
The university has a policy prohibiting overnight camping unless specifically permitted by the university. The university has allowed overnight camping in White Plaza since the events of October 7 out of a desire to support the peaceful expression of free speech in the ways that students choose to exercise that expression.
Stanford’s commitment to supporting the free expression of views on White Plaza remains firmly in place, subject to the enforcement of these viewpoint-neutral time, place, and manner rules. Tabling between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. and other advocacy activities may continue on White Plaza consistent with current university policies, including Office of Student Engagement event registration requirements.
However, our concern for the safety of students has risen to a level where ongoing overnight activities are no longer something the university can support. Extended camping in an open area accessible to the public, accessible to rodents and other animals, and vulnerable to extreme weather inherently poses safety concerns. Last weekend’s intense storm escalated these concerns. In addition, even unoccupied displays left overnight pose a safety hazard to the community, as we saw last weekend when the metal canopies of the Blue and White Tent group display came unmoored and were blown about by the winds.
Moving forward, any tents, tables, chairs, or other similar items will need to be removed from White Plaza between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. Any overnight displays and/or camping items left unoccupied are subject to removal for health and safety reasons. Students who violate the no-camping policy will be subject to a disciplinary referral to the Office of Community Standards and may also be cited for trespass for failing to comply with a university directive.
Our community holds a variety of views regarding the Israel-Hamas war. Stanford continues to firmly support the peaceful expression of divergent views by members of our community, and we will continue working to provide for the physical safety and well-being of all members of our community.