Despite advertising itself as a university that values diversity, equity and inclusion on official websites and recruitment materials, students of color at Stanford often have a difficult time finding spaces where we actually feel included. Historically, students of color have have experienced violence and racism on this campus, necessitating safer, more inclusive spaces for these students. Recognizing a need for spaces dedicated specifically to the centering of experiences and healing of students from historically marginalized communities navigating Stanford, students advocated for the Ethnic Community Centers and Ethnic Theme Dorms we have today. The four Ethnic Theme Dorms (Muwekma, Okada, Casa Zapata and Ujamaa) serve as spaces where students of color know that they will not only be included, but celebrated for their diverse backgrounds, with an opportunity to engage critically in issues that affect communities of color. Ethnic Theme Associates (ETAs) serve as pillars of the Ethnic Theme Dorms, cultivating a community that engages in academic discourse, dialogue across difference and the unpacking of political issues with personal ramifications. For us, these conversations are not just abstract academic concepts — they are discussions about, and informed by, our very own lived experiences. Given the normalization of racism and intolerance in today’s political climate, our communities are under attack more than ever, and the very existence of our ETA position and our dorm communities have been questioned and invalidated.
From the first ETAs — initially unpaid student volunteers — in 1974, to the present, ETAs have taken on the role of making each Ethnic Theme Dorm a brave space in which students of color are supported and validated. ETAs play a crucial role in fostering the political and ethnic identity of Ethnic Theme Dorms, but continue to be underpaid and exploited by the university. For the past few years, student activists such as Who’s Teaching Us, as well as current and former ETAs have been fighting for pay equity for those occupying this residential staff position. This past fall quarter, the ETAs of Casa Zapata, Ujamaa and Okada sent out a petition and survey in support of equitable pay. In less than a month, we gathered 650 signatures in support of our campaign. The majority of our respondents agreed that ETAs should be paid at least what RCCs are paid.
We met with the ResX Task Force several times during fall quarter to call for an increase in our pay and worked with the ASSU Senate to pass a resolution in support of our demands. Our demand is simple: equity. We demand the University administration recognize and value our labor and existence with compensation that matches that of Residential Assistants (RAs). We were notified on Friday, March 1st that the pay for all Row Managers, Academic Theme Associates (ATAs), Peer Health Educators (PHEs) and Ethnic Theme Associates (ETAs) would only be increased by $1,000. By increasing all of the stipends, the university admits that they have undervalued these positions in the past. However, this approach fails to recognize the fact that the labor of ETAs is racialized in a way that other staff positions are not. Because university administration fails to provide adequate resources to Ethnic Studies, Ethnic Community Centers and the mental and emotional health of students of color specifically, ETAs are then unfairly tasked with remedying those deficiencies through academic programming, community building events and informal peer counseling. By paying us a mere fraction of RA pay (only 46 percent with this pay increase) despite comparable levels of work and labor, the University sends a clear message that they do not value the labor of Ethnic Theme Associates.
We as Ethnic Theme Associates say to the University: this is not enough.
This campaign is not just about money. This campaign is about justice for communities of color that have repeatedly been targeted and attacked on this campus, without any true protection from the university administration of our mental health and well-being. Current ETAs will continue to hold the university accountable to pay equity. This campaign is not over yet.
Signed, 2018-2019 ETAs
Casa Zapata ETA Araceli Garcia ‘20
Casa Zapata ETA Jasmin Martinez ‘20
Casa Zapata ETA Jessica Reynoso ‘20
Okada ETA Huanvy Phan ‘20
Okada ETA Pao Thao ‘20
Okada ETA Edwin Carlos ‘20
Ujamaa ETA Vanessa Sims ‘19
Ujamaa ETA Khaled Aounallah ‘19
Ujamaa ETA Treyjohn Butler ‘19
Contact Araceli Garcia at aracelig ‘at’ stanford.edu.