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Ideas, flyers, and behavior

In the last few weeks, our campus dialogue has heated up around flyers, and ideas evoked in those flyers.

The following message was emailed to all students.

Dear students,

I am forwarding to you a message we shared this morning with VSO leaders and student residential staff. I know many of you have been impacted by the complex issues the provost and I discuss in this message, so I am sharing this information with you, too. Student staff in your residences and your residence deans are here to support you, and I am always here to meet with and support each of you as well. 


Susie Brubaker-Cole
Vice Provost for Student Affairs


Dear voluntary student organization leaders and student residential staff,

We are writing to you today in your capacity as student leaders who play critical roles as the keepers and creators of student communities. You make a tremendous difference for students every day, and we are deeply grateful for the care, compassion and kindness you bring into our communities.

In the last few weeks, our campus dialogue has heated up around flyers, and ideas evoked in those flyers. We know that many of you are feeling distressed and frustrated that similar incidents have occurred multiple times over the past few years. Debating ideas and disseminating ideas via flyers are an essential part of campus life. However, in recent weeks, some of the behaviors that have accompanied these practices have crossed a line of respectful treatment that we feel need to be addressed head-on. 

We have learned about exchanges that included verbal threats and intimidating behavior. We have learned about a student group demanding entrance into Casa Zapata although those present do not live there and are not invited guests. We have learned about the same student group gathering outside Casa Zapata with cameras, appearing to record residents and guests as they came and went. These behaviors do not comport with our expectations for a caring, respectful community. We have formal processes to determine if such behaviors violate university policy. We are not commenting on those processes or any potential outcomes. What we are commenting on is the basic human dignity that we expect every member of the Stanford community to extend to one another.

To the leaders of our student organizations: you are given the opportunity to apply for and use the funds that are provided through student fees and you are given access to campus spaces for meetings and events. With these privileges, we have the highest expectations of your behavior and the ways you engage with fellow students.

In this time of heightened tensions and fear from national and international events, we need to recognize real fear, grounded in real threats and true harm at events still raw and recent in our memory -- El Paso and Gilroy, Pittsburgh and Poway. We need to respect that there are people on our campus who just want to feel safe and secure inside their homes and community spaces. Casa Zapata and El Centro Chicano y Latino have been particularly impacted by these events, and we ask our campus community to extend care and support to Casa Zapata and our broader Latinx community. 

We all have a foundational responsibility to support and respect all members of our community. We all also have a responsibility to comport ourselves in ways that are worthy of mutual respect. It is important that we embrace a sense of humility as the counterbalance to the privilege of being here and the tremendous intellectual capital we wield. When we bring harm to one another, we go against what this university was built to achieve.

We ask student residential staff to continue discouraging students from tearing down or defacing flyers. The ideas reflected in flyers may be abhorrent to many in our community but tearing down flyers does not eliminate those ideas from campus. Instead, we ask that you engage your communities in discussing controversial ideas, that you give strong voice to counter-opinions, and that you support students in distress. The challenges of our time require us to engage together as a community. 

Each of you has a choice to make and a role to play. We and our colleagues will be here for you and all the students around you. We will do all we can to ensure everyone feels respected and safe, but the truth is the power to shape the environment in which we live is a responsibility that we hold collectively.


Persis Drell

Susie Brubaker-Cole
Vice Provost for Student Affairs