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Board of Judicial Affairs rejects proposal to add “veteran status” to Fundamental Standard
Members of the Stanford Undergraduate Veterans Association at St. Anthony's Dining Room (Courtesy of the Stanford Undergraduate Veterans Association)

Board of Judicial Affairs rejects proposal to add “veteran status” to Fundamental Standard

On Feb. 18, Stanford’s Board of Judicial Affairs declined to add military affiliation to the list of identities — including race, gender, socioeconomic status and more — explicitly protected under the Fundamental Standard. The University decision followed a request for the change nearly six months prior by Adam Behrendt ’19, president of the Stanford Undergraduate Veteran Association.

Veterans under the Fundamental Standard

A former Navy corpsman, Behrendt sent an email on Aug. 23 to the Dean of Students Office proposing that military affiliation be added as an explicitly protected class under the Fundamental Standard, the guiding statement on student conduct at the University since 1896.

“Students at Stanford are expected to show both within and without the University such respect for order, morality, personal honor and the rights of others as is demanded of good citizens,” the Standard states. “Failure to do this will be sufficient cause for removal from the University.”

Although the Standard does not name any specific protected identities, an interpretive addendum called “Understanding the Fundamental Standard” meant to “elaborate [on the Standard’s] basic values today” includes several.

“Students are expected to respect and uphold the rights and dignity of others regardless of race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic status,” the addendum states.

In his email to the Dean of Students Office, Behrendt proposed adding either “military affiliation” or “veteran status” to that list.

“Both proposals [would] accomplish my primary objective [of] ensuring student, staff, and faculty veterans are afforded an equal opportunity to live, learn and grow in an environment free from disrespect, discrimination and indignity founded in their military affiliation,” he wrote.

Behrendt added that doing so would also represent an “attempt to ensure [that] veteran guests are afforded similar dignity and respect.”

On Feb. 18, Catherine Sanchez ’19 and Ross Shachter, associate professor of management science and engineering — co-­chairs of the Board on Judicial Affairs — responded to Behrendt with an email declining his proposal.

“We agree that people should be respected regardless of their veteran status or military affiliation,” Sanchez and Shachter wrote to Behrendt. “However, we believe that the rights of those with military affiliation are already covered in the Fundamental Standard itself.”

In response to an inquiry from The Daily about why other student communities are explicitly mentioned in “Understanding the Fundamental Standard” while veteran status is held to be implicitly protected in the Standard’s original text, University spokesperson E.J. Miranda deferred to the original decision made by the Board of Judicial Affairs.

“Revisions to the Fundamental Standard are rare, but the Board discussed possible changes to its interpretations,” Miranda wrote in an email to The Daily. “The Board determined that the original text of the Fundamental Standard clearly supports the respect and rights of military-affiliated members of the University community.”

According to Behrendt, following The Daily’s request for University comment on the decision, the Organization for Military-Affiliated Communities (OMAC) was contacted by the Office of Community Standards (OCS) “offering to re-engage.”

On March 6, 16 days after Behrendt received the initial email declining his proposed change, Assistant Director of OMAC David Rice met with OCS to further discuss the decision.

Since the meeting’s occurrence, however, Behrendt told The Daily there has been “no immediate change in consideration” of the proposal.

Following this article’s original publication, OCS confirmed in an email to The Daily that the decision had not been reversed.

Veterans under other University policies

The Fundamental Standard is not Stanford’s only written guideline that critics have called on to include military-affiliated persons.

The University recently added veteran status to its non-discrimination policy. The policy now reads, “Stanford University admits qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, or marital status to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the University.”

Behrendt, who was involved in changing the non-discrimination policy, said he found it a significantly easier University document to revise compared to the Fundamental Standard.

“Last year, I questioned the absence of ‘veteran status’ (and ‘marital status’) in Stanford’s non-discrimination policy,” he wrote in an email to The Daily. “We learned this was an oversight, and the Provost’s Office amended the policy in 10 days.”

In contrast, there was a nearly six-month wait in between Behrendt’s original proposal to the Dean of Students Office and his eventual rejection by the Board on Judicial Affairs.

The minutes of the most recent Board meeting on Jan. 31 noted that “discussion addressed the question of how [Behrendt’s proposed] language fit with ‘protected’ status” and how it would compare to that used in “other University documents.”

When that meeting took place — 18 days before the rejection email — the non-discrimination policy had already included veterans as an explicitly protected class for over a year.

According to the Diversity and Access Office, in addition to its non-discrimination policy, the University is required by the government to perform an annual analysis of the role veterans play in the institution’s workforce, including tracking “hires, promotions and terminations.”

In February, Behrendt — in response to the creation of women-focused weight training sessions at the Arrillaga Outdoor Education Recreation Center — filed a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, a gender discrimination complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing and an Act of Intolerance report with Stanford’s Student Affairs office. As a result, the University implemented men’s-focused lifting hours in the same studio.

“I’m not concerned with the impact of two hours or four hours a week at a gym,” Behrendt wrote in an email to Jennifer Sexton, director of fitness and wellness programs and one of the creators of the women’s hours. “I’m concerned with understanding how the University applies anti-discrimination laws to itself and whether they’ll be honest about that.”

“It is unfortunate that in an effort to ensure the well-being of all community members in response to raised concerns, an initial solution to ensure that women and members of the transgender community felt comfortable working out generated a concern of exclusion,” Miranda wrote to The Daily at the time.

Behrendt has also been involved in several other military-facing advocacy campaigns, including a call for higher University enrollment of veterans and a petition to change the way G.I. Bill benefits are applied towards tuition assistance and other financial aid.

 

This article has been updated to reflect comment from OCS.

 

Contact Brian Contreras at brianc42 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Brian Contreras

Brian Contreras '20 is the Desk Editor for Student Groups. A sophomore studying STS and Anthropology, he hails from Washington, DC and hopes to pursue a career in tech or policy journalism. He is also interested in satire, backpacking, sci-fi, running, and using Oxford commas (no matter what AP Style says). Contact him at brianc42 'at' stanford.edu.