Higher education has the mission to advance human welfare in a rapidly changing world. Institutions that are truly inclusive and embrace and advance diversity everywhere – in every program, every school and every area of operation – will be the most successful. Stanford must become one of those institutions!
Recognizing this, we must clearly articulate why diversity and inclusion are important to us, how these values support the mission of the university, and what goals we have set to advance our commitment to them.
Why is diversity important?
Diversity is critical to our research and educational missions.
At its core, a university is devoted to the discovery and transmission of knowledge. The enterprise cannot be limited in its methods and ways of thinking, or confined to one individual’s or a single community’s experiences. To solve complex social problems, to discover the next breakthrough in science, or to reach new heights of artistic expression, we must bring a broad range of ideas and approaches.
At Stanford, we strive to ensure that a diversity of cultures, races and ethnicities, genders, political and religious beliefs, physical and learning differences, sexual orientations and identities is thriving on our campus. Such diversity will inspire new angles of inquiry, new modes of analysis, new discoveries and new solutions.
To advance education, it is essential to be exposed to views and cultures other than one’s own and to have one’s opinions and assumptions challenged. Such engagement expands our horizons, enables understanding across difference, prevents complacency and promotes intellectual breadth.
Our diversity ensures our strength as an intellectual community. In today’s world, diversity represents the key to excellence and achievement.
The future is diverse.
Our world is becoming increasingly diverse and ever more interconnected.
To be fully engaged community members in the 21st century, we need to embrace diversity. In the classroom, in the workplace, on the playing field – indeed, in all aspects of life – we must be able to navigate difference, develop empathy and continue to learn the value of engagement with diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
As researchers, teachers and students, we must engage intellectually with the societal changes that will result from increasing cultural diversity.
The social problems we face in the future transcend all borders. We must be sure that the solutions we develop address the needs of all people and incorporate the input of multiple communities. By building diverse teams, we greatly expand the perspectives brought to bear on problems, ultimately leading to outcomes that benefit the broadest cross-section of our diverse society.
We believe that Stanford’s future preeminence requires that we enthusiastically embrace our diverse future now.
Despite our current commitments to equity and access, our collective history is built on the efforts of populations that have been historically marginalized and denied equal access to higher education. For example, in the past, many U.S. colleges and universities imposed quotas – formal or informal – on students of certain religious or racial backgrounds, as well as by gender. In the present day, marginalization and inequity of opportunity persist within society at large. We must acknowledge our history and the cultural context we live in, while we focus on shaping a future where individuals from all backgrounds have the same opportunity to thrive.
Stanford has been part of this history. Stanford is built on land that was originally inhabited by the Muwekma Ohlone peoples. Senator Stanford’s wealth that was used to found the university was built with the labor of Chinese immigrant workers. Though the university was co-ed from its founding, Jane Stanford imposed a quota on women students in 1896. It was not until 1972 that the Board of Trustees voted to remove the gender quota entirely.
In seeking to achieve its goals of creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all community members, Stanford has benefited from the input and advocacy of community members. Student activism in the late 1960s led to the creation of ethnic theme houses and community centers that now form a foundation for many communities on our campus. More recently, student advocacy led Stanford to reevaluate the names of several buildings and streets and to rename some of them, recognizing that retaining the existing name in some cases was “inconsistent with the university’s integrity and harmful to its research and teaching missions and inclusiveness.”
We must continue to evolve and become a better and more inclusive institution in our pursuit of the values we hold dear.
Our commitment to progress: IDEAL
Advancing the university’s commitment to the values of diversity and inclusion is a key component of Stanford’s long-range vision. The Presidential Initiative IDEAL – Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access in a Learning Environment – is working across the entire campus community, focusing on the areas of recruitment, research, education and engagement.
The goals of IDEAL are to ensure:
- that diversity of thought, experience and approach is represented in all sectors of our education and research enterprise;
- that all members of the campus community feel they belong and are supported regardless of their background, identity, or affiliations; and
- that all members of the campus community have broad access to the opportunities and benefits of Stanford.
We are optimistic about our ability to reach these goals. There are a number of efforts already in place aimed at the goals of IDEAL, and we are making great strides in many areas – from new student orientation and academic advising to faculty recruitment and professional development.
But many of these efforts are school or program-based and not yet designed to have broad institutional impact. With IDEAL, we hope to build on successful current endeavors to maximize their impact while creating new tools to share data and monitor progress in a way that is transparent to the campus community.
Achieving the goals for a diverse, equitable and inclusive future at Stanford will take hard work. Three immediate priorities for improvement are:
- Increasing the diversity of the faculty, especially faculty from underrepresented backgrounds including racial and ethnic minorities and women in STEM;
- Improving the campus climate so that all experience an abiding sense of belonging and broad access to opportunity; and
- Advancing free expression in an inclusive community.
We strongly believe that a diverse student body needs to learn from an equally diverse faculty. We are excited to see the growing diversity of our undergraduate and graduate students, which reflects more and more of the dynamic nature of our country and our world with a broad range of geographic, racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, cultural and educational backgrounds. However, our efforts to increase the diversity of our faculty have not been as successful.
Our goal is to improve the campus culture where all community members feel they belong and have access to the many opportunities offered here. In an inclusive environment, all community members have a voice and are actively engaged in the institution. This will not happen without a focused effort to determine the best practices to achieve such an environment and develop metrics to hold ourselves accountable.
Free expression within a diverse community – in the form of thoughtful and respectful debate – is an extraordinary learning opportunity for all. Breakthroughs in understanding come from considering a broad range of ideas – including those we might find objectionable – and engaging in rigorous testing of them through analysis and debate. We look forward to developing more ways to foster this effort.
The path forward
It’s important to understand that we envision IDEAL as much more than counting numbers and checking boxes. If we’re successful, it will result in significant cultural and institutional change for Stanford.
And it will take all of us, working together, to make real and substantive progress. Stanford’s excellence is only possible through embracing diversity and ensuring our community is inclusive for all.