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.