To the Editor:
The Haas Center encourages activism and community organizing as one of many pathways for social change. Our goal is to develop ethical and effective practices in whatever approach students take to contribute to the social good and to promote dialogue across differences. As was noted in a recent column, Stanford Sanctuary Now (SSN) representatives took over the stage at our recent year-end celebration event and presented their concerns to President Marc Tessier-Lavigne.
Unfortunately, because their speech was both unexpected and long, it put the Haas Center leadership in a difficult position. We could have allowed the SSN students to continue, or we could have intervened to enable the president and students on the agenda to share what they had prepared. Choosing the former, we show disrespect to the president, students and staff who carefully planned and prepared for the event. Choosing the latter, we silence students who care deeply about their cause. Our response may not have been perfect, but given the competing values at stake, no perfect choice existed. In the end, our response provided Stanford Sanctuary Now students a substantial amount of time to express their concerns but precluded them from entirely taking over the event.
We appreciate the group’s passion and commitment, and we welcome ideas about how the Haas Center can play a productive role in helping activists on campus engage in the kind of principled and effective advocacy our world sorely needs.
-Deborah Stipek, Faculty Director; Tom Schnaubelt, Executive Director
Haas Center for Public Service