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Letter to the community: Thank you for recognizing and affirming the veteran community

To the 20th Undergraduate Senate and Chair Leya Elias ’21:

Thank you, Senator Matthew Wigler ’19, and the whole of the 20th Undergraduate Senate for passing the recent “Resolution to Better Serve Veterans at Stanford.” Your unanimous vote affirming student veterans is momentous and reflects great credit on the character and culture of the Senate and the students it represents. Your comprehensive resolution, if acted upon, will increase meaningful diversity, enrich the education of all students and ensure veterans become a more visibly valued component of Stanford’s extraordinary community.

To be clear: 

Stanford is a phenomenal institution and has, over the last four years, rapidly expanded opportunities and resources for veterans. I was one of four undergraduate veterans who enrolled in 2015, and this year, new enrollment is more than double that, at nine. Yet, both of these numbers — four and nine — are troublingly small. Our nation has been at war for the past 18 years. Service members and their families have borne the burden of 5.4 million deployments, yet veterans remain a nearly invisible minority at Stanford, just one for every 243 undergraduates. As an otherwise leading institution, Stanford can and should do better, and the Undergraduate Senate’s resolution highlights numerous opportunities for Stanford to do so.

Expanding on three such opportunities:

Stanford should officially recognize Veterans Day. We are fortunate to live in such a free and secure country, while acknowledging these benefits are not uniformly enjoyed. This is the same country in which our University has flourished, and Veterans Day reminds us to be thankful for all that we have and to appreciate those who risk so much to preserve it: our service members, veterans and their families. The University’s lack of official recognition of such a significant holiday is at odds with an institution that celebrates all of its constituent communities. Moreover, and more enduring than your unanimous affirmation, officially recognizing Veterans Day would counter the narrative that institutions like Stanford are neither open nor friendly to veterans. This is simply not the case, and the persistence of this narrative only hinders the national effort to see veterans enroll at better schools.

Stanford should make veteran enrollment a priority. The absence of veterans from our nation’s top schools is a national issue of significant consequence, and to do less than lead on this issue would be a failure of University leadership. Stanford educates the leaders of tomorrow, and that education would be better and more complete for including the perspectives of more than a handful of veterans, individuals who have personally experienced and implemented our nation’s foreign policy priorities before continuing their education. Service members and veterans are diverse in thought, origin and experience, and enrollment at our current levels does little to reveal this to traditional students. Moreover, the U.S. Military remains a valuable socioeconomic ladder for those otherwise unable to access the American dream. Some 62 percent of student veterans are first-generation college students, and including more students of these backgrounds would significantly amplify Stanford’s impact and influence in the world.

Lastly, Stanford should become a full and unlimited participant in the VA’s Yellow Ribbon Program, becoming the first among the Ivy+ universities. Why such well-resourced institutions are not fully participating in a federal matching grant program to support veterans is a question without answer. Perceived affordability is a significant deterrent for enlisted veterans and other historically underrepresented minorities. Yellow Ribbon participation is the litmus test for veterans to quickly determine college affordability, and full participation would set an important example and send a message that undergraduate veterans are indeed welcome and supported at Stanford.

In conclusion: 

The undergraduate veteran community and I are sincerely grateful for your leadership and the full and unanimous support of the 20th Undergraduate Senate, both in affirming our value within Stanford’s extraordinary community and committing to continuing efforts to increase community support and inclusion. We genuinely appreciate the opportunity to live and study among such incredible peers, at such a phenomenal institution. And we hope the University’s leadership will follow your guidance, to better serve veterans at Stanford, and to set a better example for other institution to follow.

Again, thank you!

Sincerely,

Adam Behrendt ’20

President, Stanford Undergraduate Veterans Association

Contact Adam Behrendt at adam15 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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