In May, we marked one year since George Floyd’s murder—a tragedy that galvanized our nation and spurred the Stanford community into action. Stanford students pressed for change in our broader society and on our campus, holding online vigils and creating a memorial for Black lives on the Stanford Oval.
In the weeks that followed, I met with Black students, faculty and staff, who shared their personal experiences with racism on our campus and ideas for meaningful change. Those ideas informed our way forward.
In June 2020, we announced new initiatives aimed at advancing a more just society through education and research and countering racism within our own community. These are in addition to the work already underway under our Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access in a Learning Environment (IDEAL) initiative, which launched in 2018 as part of Stanford’s Long-Range Vision.
Creating real and lasting change is difficult, and we have much more work to do. But in the past year, we have taken meaningful steps toward our goals. In March, we announced the first cohort of IDEAL Provostial Fellows, a group of promising young scholars conducting research related to race and ethnicity who will join our campus community for three years beginning this fall. The fellows come from a range of disciplines, from epidemiology to the classics, and additional cohorts will follow. Ultimately, we hope the program will be one pipeline to help diversify the national professoriate.
The university has also launched a search for 10 preeminent scholars of race in America—a uniquely large faculty cluster hire that will amplify Stanford’s scholarship and deepen the research into race and ethnicity underway on our campus. Due in part to these efforts, Stanford will welcome the most diverse cohort of new faculty in the university’s history this fall.
‘It is deeply important to me that every member of our community feels safe and protected at Stanford.’
In February, Provost Persis Drell announced that she had accepted the proposal to make African and African American studies a full department, which will strengthen our ability to recruit and retain strong faculty in the field.
In addition to advancing racial justice through research and teaching, we are working to improve our campus culture. This spring, we launched a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Survey to better understand the individual experiences of Stanford community members. We are also publishing new annual demographic data to improve transparency and monitor our progress toward greater diversity and inclusion.
We’ve devoted additional resources to our Centers for Equity, Community, and Leadership, including the Black Community Services Center and the Asian American Activities Center. We’ve also created a Black Community Council, which brings alumni into this process alongside students, faculty and staff. The council oversees initiatives focused on Stanford’s Black community and provides feedback and recommendations to university leaders.
As part of our efforts to improve our campus culture, we’ve also established a Community Board on Public Safety, tasked with gathering community input, analyzing data, and ensuring that the university’s public safety policies and practices are consistent with our values. It is deeply important to me that every member of our community feels safe and protected at Stanford. In the coming months, we’ll continue to draw on the Community Board’s insights as we work to improve public safety at our university.
While we have made progress over the past year, we must continue our efforts to improve. We’ll keep the alumni community informed of our progress, including through events like June’s town hall with Black alumni. Diversity, equity and inclusion are at the heart of our university’s values, and I am committed to working relentlessly to ensure that we continue to change for the better.
Marc Tessier-Lavigne is the president of Stanford University.