Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

A campus united against division

Springtime at Stanford campus is the time of year that students look forward to most, especially after a more stressful winter quarter. While Stanford is known for a happy, upbeat and agreeable culture, the past few months and recent events have plunged a normally balmy season into a time of sharp division and a general sense of malaise.

“Whether the issue is Israel and Palestine, sexual assault and due process, investment in fossil fuels … black lives … we seem to have lost the ability to engage in true dialogue,” stated Provost Etchemendy at a Faculty Senate meeting. It most certainly is true; Stanford students have been exposed to and become involved with far more issues than those faced in an average year. But harkening back to Etchemendy’s statement, it’s not the issues that have caused the division but the manner in which students have begun to speak to, or rather, speak past, each other. In his now-epic quote, “Dialogue is not monologue times two,” the Provost captures the brokenness of the current discourse present on campus. Regardless of any one person or group’s point of view on any issue this year, campus culture has steadily veered away from having honest and frank discussions about deeply important issues in a way that fosters understanding, to discourse that only encourages animosity and division.

In a Diaspora email chain, a few students replied to Provost Etchemendy’s calls for dialogue by arguing, “I’d boycott dialogue and commit to violent resistance before I engage with such evil.” The writer doubled down later stating, “I said I’d rather commit to violent resistance before participating in dialogue that’s just a diversionary tactic.” Peppering the nine pages of published emails were statements including “institutions of power are vestiges of white supremacy,” a lack of interest “in having a conversation with someone who condones rape” (Provost Etchemendy) and that “some, not all, lives matter to the administration.”

While these statements may be rightly written off as isolated, they culminated in two emails from ASSU Senator Malcolm Lizzappi. As a Senator elected to represent the student body and establish an effective relationship with faculty and the administration, Lizzappi thanked the previous commenters and stated, “Etchemendy invokes unsubstantiated allegations from one student to substantiate anti-black/anti-colored/etc sentiment on a campus…We need to stop pretending like ‘dialogue’ benefits us because its clear that it only benefits the ones who shape the standards of dialogue in the first place,” signing the email “black resistance matters.”

In building off of previous commentary, the Senator used his position and title to directly accuse the Provost of supporting discriminatory and racist attitudes and behavior on campus. The last thing the University and students need following these past few tense months is an elected leader joining in baseless attack on the institution, the students and the most well-respected of individuals at this school and academia, while additionally advocating against dialogue with those who hold a different point of view than himself.

Until we as students attempt to respect and mature in the way we speak and act to one another, we will only grow more divided. However, I do not believe Stanford is divided. A small contingent of extremism does not set the tone for a campus-wide, honest dialogue for the rest of the student body to engage in. As college students, we are in a unique position where it is okay to disagree, to seek, to understand and reconcile. At this juncture, the student body can rise above the divisions that tear us apart, and come together in mutual accord against those that only look to alienate and divide us. It is imperative at this point in our Stanford career to seek to alleviate these sources of tension and virulence. For these reasons, I have joined concerned Stanford students by signing the recall petition of Senator Lizzappi at tinyurl.com/reclaimstanford. With roughly 1,000 signatures, the student body has the ability to call for an election to express our opposition to this behavior, and our support for building a responsible dialogue and leaders who respect these values.

Brooks Hamby ‘18

Contact Brooks Hamby at jbhamby ‘at’ stanford.edu.

  • Disgruntled Ex-sorority member

    Bitter much Hamby?

  • Bi@Stanford

    So people who feel legitimate concerns about sexual harassment, racism, etc. don’t deserve to have someone who listens to them and represent them is what you’re saying?

  • Tsk Tsk

    Wow. So you lose the Senate election and then lash out against a guy that won twice?

    I’m intrigued that you didn’t highlight the important sentence of: “Why hasn’t [Provost Etchemendy] made a statement about hostilities against communities of color every other year?” or “But dialogue merely for the sake of dialogue isn’t some magic remedy” or actually from our beloved Senator “Thus the burden is upon every single minority student to represent themselves, lest others create us in their own mind to make up for what they know not about us” or “To ground this historically, we have to remember that the task force for issues related to sexual assault this school year has brought forth a proposal strikingly similar to the one a similar task force brought forth 25 years ago” or any of the other things said on that thread that it turns out several people agree with (would need a poll to prove more, but personal experience suggests that this is quite common).

    So you do not believe Stanford is divided. Good for you for ignoring many Op-Eds that talked about issues specifically on how “divisive” they were. Exactly how ignorant of this campus are you?

    Apparently you missed the entire divestment debate.

    Apparently you’ve never looked at Yik Yak.

    Apparently you missed the conversations on how to deal with sexual assault.

    And it’s plainly obvious you know nothing about where the man is coming from, nor do you apparently pay any attention to history – can you really tell me (well, anonymous internet me anyway) with a metaphorical straight face that some of the more important gains in our society (like desegregation) were gained largely through “non-divisive” or “tensionless” dialogue?

    If you think Senator Lizzappi is the source of tension on this campus, then you’ve got some learnin’ to do.

    And finally: is it dialogue if there is a power imbalance? Is it dialogue if one side has the ability to be apathetic or slow, knowing that the source of “trouble” will be gone in a few years anyway?

  • skullbreathe

    I love all the ‘diversity’ at Stanford unless you’re Jewish or God forbid a conservative…

  • mxm123

    Is it “Jewish” or Jewish and/or conservative who pretends there’s no apartheid in Israel.

  • mxm123

    The same Mark Hamby who in high school decided to preach his brand of Christianity at a public school ?

  • ModernMaccabi

    There is no Apartheid in Israel. Repeatedly stating a lie over and over again does not make it true.

  • wut?

    Was nodding and agreeing with this article until you changed tone and made it clear your only intent in writing it was to attack Lizzappi and push the petition for his recall. Even if you don’t agree with him (I know I don’t on most things) this petition to single out and attack one of our fellow students because he made a statement you disagree with is a prime example of the divisiveness you purport to oppose.

  • Response

    Tell that to the West Bankers under martial law.

  • ModernMaccabi

    Tell the West Bankers to stop supporting the terrorists who are guilty of killing and maiming hundreds of innocent Israeli civilians, including women and children, so that the security restrictions can be eased. The Palestinian use of violence has done nothing but harm their cause.

  • Buddha

    Honestly, people, stop responding to mxm123, who in all likelihood spends his day ctrl+f searching for the word “jew” and then writing angry and aggressive comments where random “words” happen to be in “quotations” – the slightly less annoying but still obnoxious cousin of the ALL CAPS

  • mxm123

    So you do agree that Palestinians in the West Bank have no rights. Finally.

  • mxm123

    Dear Hillel sock puppet, a.k.a Buddha. I speak for Palestinian rights. I don’t care if you’re a Jew or a Jehovah’s witness, if you’re going to sit here and plant false narratives i’m going to challenge that.

    Just like your false narratives about our “victim” Molly. Why is it a week after her “victimhood” she can credibly prove a single of her accusations.

    You seem to be paranoid about any discussion of Israeli apartheid ?

  • CheckYourIgnorance

    Dude….just because you spent the most amount of money on your campaign and STILL lost doesn’t mean that you can be this salty with the results. Go do your homework and move on.

  • monkeyqueen

    I want to warn people of good will, and I count all at Stanford who are currently engaged in making efforts to discern what dialogue means in efforts to optimize life within the historical circumstances we inherit, to avoid dismissing the proverbial baby with the bathwater. I agree that exhortations to dialogue without a holistic view of its promises, practices, and flaws can be subversive to the optimization of life in a community. Without a critical analysis that writers here point out about how dialogue can be appropriated consciously and unconsciously to perpetuate a system of privilege and without examining how dialogue can be applied to dismantle it, can make dialogue misused, but it doesn’t make it invalid. In the rush to stop its misuse it is perilous to every self-optimization project to dismiss dialogue entirely. As some already point out in these threads the less privileged who speak out and organize also need to mobilize through dialogue and often need strong dialogue skills to overcome internal dissension that undermine coalition building.

    I have been part of many dialogue efforts that promote the idea that Sharing Matters as a skill and process that help people to examine multiple identities, status differences and positionally. Current student such as Chris Bernedo, Jazyln Patricio Archer, and Claire Patterson helped to design and lead a class. While the class ended there is different one offered this year on dialogue sponsored by the Diversity and First Gen Office this year. Also, Professor Hazel Markus has been a long time supporter of this type of dialogue work.

    Since you writers here have already identified ways that dialogue is not useful, I want to encourage people on all the sides of the debate to dialogue against their own positions with others about it and to reach a common understanding of how to make dialogue effective – a tool for optimization of life for all and not a debate about whether it is only one or the other – a tool of control or tool of change. The way we make change is as important as the change we make. Dialogue is action when it done well.

    Tommy Woon
    Former Associate Dean of the Diversity and DGen Office

  • ModernMaccabi

    No, that is NOT what I said.

  • JMAR

    ———- Forwarded message ———-

    From: John Etchemendy

    Date: Mon, Mar 9, 2009 at 9:06 PM

    Subject: Re: Community Center Cuts…Please Read

    To:

    Cc: John Etchemendy

    Dear Ms _______,

    Our cuts were not across-the-board cuts. They were the result of careful consideration by the University Budget Group, which spent hundreds of hours over the last four months reviewing every school and administrative unit’s budget plans. I understand that you feel you are in a better position than this group to judge the fairness of Stanford’s budget decisions, in spite of your lack of knowledge of any other unit in the university. But you are wrong. I know that you believe that you, and only you, “know what it takes to keep students at Stanford,” in spite of the fact that many people at Stanford have been successfully doing this for twenty and thirty years. But you are wrong.

    I have a request. Print a copy of your message and put it in a safe place. In twenty years, take it out and read it. You will know then why I asked you to do that.

    Thank you for your input.

    John Etchemendy

    On Mar 9, 2009, at 4:47 PM, _________ wrote:

    Dear Hennessy, Etchemendy, and Boardman,

    My name is ________, class of 2008. I majored in Comparative Studies of Race and Ethnicity, and was an active member of the community centers, especially the Native American Community Center. In fact, I attended Stanford because I wanted to be a part of the Native American and Latino American communities on campus. The community centers are why I write you today.

    The Native American Cultural Center was my second home throughout my years at Stanford. It provided me a place to develop into the Stanford graduate I became just a short time ago. The centers provide programming, which allows us to know and feel that we made the right choice by coming to school. For many Native peoples, and for many people of color, going to school is not an easy task to complete. The support that we get once we get on campus is vital to our ability to staying in school. I, along with many of my friends and fellow community members, can say with conviction that we would not have made it through Stanford without the support we got from the community centers. The centers allowed many of us to develop the skills necessary to become leaders in our communities as well as in the fields we chose to study.

    That all being said, I cannot envision 15% cuts to the Native Center or any community center’s budgets being something that will continue to encourage and foster this growth. I have received your letter about why the budget cuts must happen, and I want to question some of that letter. As is stated in the letter, “It is a pleasure to hear from so many people who either benefited directly from, or admire from a distance, the efforts Stanford has put into recruiting and retaining a diverse student body”. I wonder how exactly the University plans on retaining students from diverse backgrounds when it is simultaneously cutting the budget. In the letter, the University says that it will continue to offer financial aid and will, in fact, increase spending. What good does it do for our communities, inside and outside of the University setting, if youth go to their first year of college because they can afford it, only to drop out the second year because the support they need is being gutted and is close to non-existence? Have we already forgotten the struggles of our young students of color, have we forgotten Maurice Morsette’s death? Our students of color, our native students especially face huge challenges when coming to school often away from our families and communities. These challenges affect our physical, emotional and mental health. The community centers allow us to rebuild and develop places that allow us to grow and be successful. They are places that keep us from failing. Getting a diverse student body is only the first goal. The ultimate and larger goal is to have them graduate. Graduation can become something near impossible with the cutting of funds to community centers.

    I now work at UC Berkeley, and as you can imagine they too are going through budget cuts, but may I say that their language at least on the outside sounds better, “Last month the Chancellor asked Vice Chancellors to begin working on their 2009-10 budget proposals by modeling strategies for achieving an 8% targeted cut and describing the impact of those strategies. Across-the-board cuts are not planned; these models are for planning purposes. We will evaluate these unit submissions, weighing the trade-offs and impacts of possible cuts, and then make the difficult choices of where cuts can be most effective with the least risk to campus.” First and foremost UC Berkeley, a much poorer school by almost all standards, is cutting less. Second they are not doing across the board cuts. This is an important differentiation. I do not know who they are cutting from and who they are not, but I believe that Stanford should do the same. In the letter to the Native alumni the University states, “Some of you argued that the NACC is underfunded, and so should be exempt from a 15 percent cut.” I am one of those that undeniably say yeswe should be exempt, and I echo that for all the community centers. It is not “unfair” to exclude community centers from the budget cuts, just as it is not “unfair” that Obama is planning on raising taxes for the top 5% of the United States. In times of recession, or truly in what looks to be a time of depression, we have a responsibility to serve the underserved. As FDR was once quoted, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little”. As we enter into these budget cuts, can Stanford say this about how it is proceeding during these cuts? The community centers are truly some of the most underfunded programs, not because we feel need or want, but because we know that we could keep more students engaged, attract more students, and build better leaders if we had more.

    We understand that there are cuts that are going to be made and we feel we should be exempt from the 15%, but are willing to take some cuts. In the letter to alumni it states “The community centers are central to achieving this vision [a diverse community], and we would not ask them to take cuts that made it unreachable”. In response to this I can only say that the students know what would make this goal unreachable. The students have demanded negotiations, and should be able to negotiate over the changes to their community center budgets. There should also be transparency of the entire process, so that we can see the way the cuts are affecting other groups. We should not be denied the right to decide what gets cut from our fragile budgets; because truly as past and present students of color of this elite school, we, and only we, know what it takes to keep students at a place like Stanford.

    If you are committed to “retaining a diverse student body,” then I, as a past student and a potential donor, demand that the University reconsider the cuts it is instituting.

    Sincerely,

    __________________

    BA Comparative Studies of Race and Ethnicity

    Stanford University