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Stanford and Hoover: We are not them

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On Thursday, 22 October 2020, I attended the live broadcast of the 53rd Faculty Senate meeting, during which faculty senators raised questions related to recent reports about the Hoover Institution board members and fellows in national media. While I was disappointed by President Marc Tessier-Lavigne’s run-of-the-mill response to Professor David Spiegel’s question about the allegations of unethical conduct of the Hoover Institution board members and fellows, I was stunned by Provost Persis Drell’s response to Professor Stephen Monismith’s question about Stanford University’s relationship to the Hoover Institution. She explained that while in the past “Hoover has been very disjointed from the rest of Stanford,” now many of its fellows hold joint appointments with academic departments at Stanford, going on to say that “over the past decade, Hoover has become much more integrated into Stanford.” She ended with a pointed remark: “In a very real sense, and I think this is important to keep in mind, they are, in fact, us.”

I am not sure what exactly Provost Drell meant by this, but this statement has very serious implications for honest and hard-working Stanford faculty. I went and re-read the article “As Virus Spread, Reports of Trump Administration’s Private Briefings Fueled Sell-Off,” published in The New York Times on Oct. 14 of this year, which alleges serious ethical misconduct by Hoover fellows and members of the Hoover Institution’s board. I could not recognize myself, or any of my colleagues, in the actions of William Callanan and other Hoover fellows mentioned in this article. None of my colleagues would put their political affiliation or personal profit ahead of the lives of their students and coworkers. Also, if any of us did a portion of what this article is suggesting that Hoover fellows did, we would face serious consequences. But they are not “us,” nor do they wish to be, judging by the disdainful comments about Stanford’s academic programs made over the years by Hoover fellows and officials, from the top down. Attaching a course number to one’s name does not make that person a scholar and a member of an academic community. Provost Drell’s answer gives an impression that the University’s leadership is using the dignity and accomplishments of Stanford faculty to conceal and protect the Hoover Institution fellows who are seriously damaging the reputation of our university. When I signed up to teach at Stanford, I was not told that part of my job would be to serve as a living shield for the Hoover Institution. I refuse to be used in that way. I am not them.

Branislav Jakovljević

Professor

Theater and Performance Studies

Contact Branislav Jakovljević at bjakov ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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