Dialogue — December 2020

December 2020

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Painful Cuts

An article in the September issue discussed Stanford’s decision to eliminate 11 varsity sports

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A group of players playing Field Hockey

As an alum field hockey player, with an incoming freshman field hockey player and a sophomore tennis player, I am furious that the definition of successful student-athlete at Stanford is only an NCAA title! Stanford provided me with an opportunity of a lifetime, and I’m sad that one of my girls will not get that opportunity!
Maree Chung, ’87

Photo: David Gonzales, ’93/Stanford Athletics

The decision to eliminate 11 of 36 varsity sports at Stanford is a fundamental shift for the University and deserves more attention from this magazine and all alumni.

We are 36 Sports Strong, a group of alumni representing all 36 of Stanford’s varsity teams. Our members have won collegiate, national, world and Olympic championships. We have played professionally in the NFL, MLB, NBA, WNBA, MLS, NWLS and LPGA. Many of us are Stanford Hall-of-Famers. We’ve been proud to represent Stanford throughout our careers.

We were stunned by this decision because we love Stanford and this changes how we view Stanford. We are asking the university to reconsider.

The impact of the cuts is being felt not only by the 4,000 alumni of the 11 teams but also by more than 40,000 alumni of the greater Stanford athletic community.

The decision upends the Stanford experience for 240 current student-athletes and their coaches, who were told they were losing their teams 30 minutes before it was publicly announced. Like us, these athletes chose Stanford for the unique opportunity it offered to be a true scholar-athlete—competing at the highest level while pursuing a world-class education.

We all recognize the importance of athletics to our Stanford education and disagree with this decision based on how it was made and communicated.

This precipitous action was not based on values Stanford Athletics has demonstrated over decades, including our commitment to Title IX and our 25 consecutive Director’s Cup wins—an honor that recognizes the breadth of our athletics programs. 

If it stands, Stanford will have cut nearly a third of its teamsprograms that have produced 48 Olympians, 27 Olympic medals and 20 national championships.

We wish the university had reached out to us in advance of the announcement to discuss its financial challenges and to explore possible solutions. We could have helped. We still can.

We join together, 36 Sports Strong, to engage with Stanford’s leaders in an effort to remedy this situation.

Jennifer Azzi, ’90, basketball; Kerri Walsh Jennings, ’00, beach volleyball; Elise Cranny, ’18, cross country; Iris Zimmerman, ’03, fencing; Kathy Levinson, ’77, field hockey, basketball and tennis; Nancy White Lippe, ’80, field hockey; Michelle Wie, ’11, golf; Nicole Luck, ’12, gymnastics; Lucy Dikeou, ’16, lacrosse; Christine Cavallo, ’17, lightweight rowing; Chierika Ukogu, ’14, rowing; Helena Scutt, ’14, MS ’17, sailing; Julie Foudy, ’93, soccer; Kelley O’Hara, ’10, soccer; Jessica Mendoza, ’02, MA ’03, softball; Casey Wong, ’20, squash; Madeleine Gill, ’15, squash; Janet Evans, ’93, swimming and diving; Summer Sanders, ’94, swimming and diving; Kassidy Cook, ’17, swimming and diving; Morgan Fuller Kolsrud, ’12, synchronized swimming; Heather Olson, ’99, synchronized swimming; Kathy Jordan, ’81, MS ’96, tennis; Rebecca Mehra, ’16, MA ’17, track and field; Foluke Akinradewo, ’09, volleyball; Kristin Klein Keefe, ’92, volleyball; Maggie Steffens, ’16, MA ’18, water polo; Mike Mussina, ’91, baseball; Adam Keefe, ’92, basketball; Jarron Collins, ’01, basketball; Cameron Miller, ’16, cross country; Alex Massialas, ’16, fencing; Andrew Luck, ’12, football; David Boote, ’16, golf; Sho Nakamori, ’08, gymnastics; Austin Hack, ’14, rowing; Nathalie Weiss, ’16, rowing; Luke Muller, ’18, sailing; Jordan Morris, ’17, soccer; Anthony Mosse, ’88, MBA ’97, swimming and diving; Mike Bruner, ’79, swimming and diving; Tom Wong, ’63, swimming and diving and water polo; Mike Bryan, ’00, tennis; Bob Bryan, ’98, tennis; Steve Solomon, ’16, track and field; Kevin Hansen, ’04, MA ’05, volleyball; Erik Shoji, ’12, volleyball; Kawika Shoji, ’10, volleyball; Scott Fortune, ’88, volleyball; Matt Fuerbringer, ’97, volleyball; Tony Azevedo, ’04, water polo; Peter Hudnut, ’03, MBA ’11, water polo; Peter Varellas, ’06, MBA ’14, water polo; Robert Hatta, ’97, wrestling; Patricia Miranda, ’01, MA ’02, wrestling; Shawn Harmon, ’01, wrestling

I appreciate the straightforward approach of this article, but it does not touch on some of the root issues of how Stanford cut 11 varsity sports. More detail and more transparency from the athletics department would be beneficial.
Craig Buell, ’05
Broomfield, Colorado

In the article, athletics director Bernard Muir states, “Athletics has generally been a self-sustaining entity on our campus, and we are striving to preserve that model in a time when the university’s budget is under significant stress.” This is the same argument used to support cutbacks made by the United States Postal Service. Neither Stanford Athletics nor the postal service should be obligated to make a profit or break even.
Doug Haydel, ’65
Stockton, California

It appears that Stanford sees itself primarily in competition with Big Ten and SEC schools instead of competing academically with Harvard, Yale, Princeton and MIT. Stanford’s 25 varsity teams will compare unfavorably with Harvard’s 42, Princeton’s 37, Yale’s 35 and MIT’s 33. Money from Division I athletics matters, but what about the experience of the students? I expect more from Stanford.
Ron Scharlack, MS ’68
Newton Highlands, Massachusetts

I always think of rowing my freshman year as a solid part of my Stanford education. It’s a real shame the president and the trustees have taken this step.
Ray Arnaudo, ’69
Mountain View, California

For an institution that is currently touting its brilliance in economics with its Nobel Prize, we have failed to use our own brilliant talent to genuinely look at not only the economics of these programs but, more important, the reason varsity sports exist at all at Stanford.
Constance Wright, ’81
Hopkinton, Massachusetts

There are thousands of alumni like me, a field hockey alumna, who would gladly give back to their sport to avoid elimination because that athletic experience had a significant impact on life beyond Stanford. But we were never asked. And the assertion by Muir in an email to Stanford Athletics alumni “that we exhausted all viable alternatives before arriving at this extremely painful decision”? Not true. Not true at all.
Linda De Los Reyes, ’84
Los Gatos, California

It’s the teams I have been part of who still give me the confidence to face these trying times without fear; for the power of many greatly outnumbers the power of one. I learned this important life lesson from playing field hockey on the Farm and that fact makes the athletics department’s decision feel so empty and hollow under the circumstances. Instead of leaning into arguably the most incredible network of individuals to ever walk the planet, they seem to have made scared decisions in secret. We are offering our decades of experience to help. Please engage with us and take it.
Jessica Zutz Hilbert, ’08
Portland, Oregon

The short article was essentially a summary of the open letter and a repository of official statements from the athletics department. You did not challenge, elaborate on, or expand the conversation about the decision to cut the sports in any way. A better article would include a deep dive on the athletics department’s financials, an exploration of the impact on current students, research on responses from alumni, and references to the broader, emerging national conversation about the role of sports on college campuses.
Midori Uehara, ’10
San Francisco, California

Rather than purge collegiate athletics of bias—against nonrevenue sports, against female athletes—the athletics department has opted to perpetuate and propagate bias with its recent decision. So disheartening.
Anne Pilson
Wilmington, Delaware

What’s in a Name

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Exterior of Jordan Hall building on Stanford Campus

Happy to hear my former dept bldg will no longer be named after a man who played a HUGE role in the American eugenics movement. He deserves, as we all do, to be remembered for his whole legacy.
Shantal R. Marshall, MA ’07, PhD ’11

Way to judge someone that lived over a century ago by the morality standards of today (yes, eugenics is bad, but it was a prominent theory at that time). Terrible idea. Without Jordan, Stanford would not exist.
Amanda Pagon, ’97

Thank you for your leading with truth. What comes next is reconciliation.
Andrea Romero, ’09

Photo: Kate Chesley/Stanford News Service

Money Talk

In our September issue, we unpacked Stanford’s endowment.

I kept looking for the paragraph that explained how the restricted funds were raised. Donors sometimes have a specific purpose in mind for their gifts, but more often, they engage in a dialogue with institutional fundraisers about what the best use of their intended gift may be. As a nonprofit fundraiser, I know that every institution has its priorities. If Stanford’s priorities are to improve the sciences and engineering departments, then some percentage of funds will inevitably move in that direction. If the university values the affordability of undergraduate education, then conversations with donors will more frequently result in scholarships being funded. Restricted funds in an endowment don’t simply emerge as some value-neutral representation of donor gifts. Rather, they are a reflection of what a university and its donors choose to support. If Stanford values affordable tuition and housing for its students, then it needs to make that a priority in its fundraising efforts.
Matthew Scelza, ’94, MA ’95
Valley Village, California

The donors of the billions of dollars in endowment funds have made recipient U.S. universities into rentiers who somehow have to manage a nontrivial share of U.S. firms that the funds are invested in, which are generally not educational enterprises. If the universities are passive, then they cede control to a more concentrated group among the shareholders, maybe following their lead (or maybe not). We don’t understand very well the role of institutional investors in corporate control.

It’s nice to be a rentier. But maybe it would be healthier all around if universities had to work for their money.
Joe Ryan, ’71
Bloomington, Indiana

The article did an excellent job of explaining what the rules are for management of Stanford’s endowment, why the funds are restricted, and the (comparatively) narrow range of options open to the Board of Trustees. Thank you.
Brian Hansen, ’74
Bellingham, Washington

A Blast, and the Past

An August photo of lightning that hit the finial atop Hoover Tower sparked memories of the last time that happened, 50 years ago.

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Lightning striking Hoover Tower

Kept awake by that storm in Dec ’70 and watching from my Wilbur dorm room, I saw that strike on Hoover Tower. A dramatic blue light ran down the side—it was an unforgettable sight!
Tatiana Granoff, ’73 


I was in Rinconada then. Missed the whole thing. Probably listening to Elton John.
Janeen Olsen, ’74


My wife and I were darn near knocked out of bed in Escondido Village when Hoover Tower was struck in ’70.
Jack Krimmer, ’71 

Photo: Michael Fischer, MS ’20, PhD ’20

Past Imperfect

In September, four faculty experts on past pandemics and the Great Depression discussed what COVID-19 could mean for our future.

Four Stanford professors consider the present in light of great crises of the past and discover they’ve been right all along, only on reconsideration even more right than they thought possible. For once, I’d like to read an article like this and discover what beliefs the author changed and why, instead of what beliefs the author feels I need to change.
Kevin Murphy, ’82, MS ’82
Manchester, Missouri

To the Dogs

Our September issue included a photo of Kuma, the Otero resident fellows’ resident kitty (@oterocat).

I would like to know the admission standards that allowed Oterocat to get into Stanford. My dog Shoes is at least as intelligent, has a wonderful personality and is of impeccable character. Shoes will come, sit and roll over on command. Does Oterocat do that? I think not. This is blatantly unfair.
Tom Hwang, ’76
Columbus, Ohio

Bon Voyages

A tribute to former Stanford president Donald Kennedy ran in our July issue, and in this issue’s Farewells, we say goodbye to professor of history emeritus Mark Mancall.

Don Kennedy expanded the Stanford overseas programs and surely improved them; however, I believe the late Mark Mancall should be given his due.

Mark became director of the programs in 1973, when student interest was ebbing and the programs were in financial distress. His goals were to improve all the programs by improving the faculty and the curricula, and enabling students to better experience the cultures of the host countries. He successfully achieved these goals. When Mark became the new director, I became the associate director and had a tenure of three years.

The article indicated that the Berlin and Oxford programs were new, which was not the case. The program in Germany was established in 1958 in Beutelsbach, near Stuttgart. It was moved to Berlin in 1975. The British program was established in 1965 at Harlaxton Manor in Lincolnshire and was moved to Cliveden House on the Thames, 30 miles west of London, in 1969. During my tenure, plans were being made to move the program to Oxford.
Don Price, ’53, MBA ’58
Palo Alto, California

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