In a September letter to the campus community, President Hennessy and Provost Etchemendy announced a project called OpenXChange in response to the upsurge of activism that at times polarized the university last year. They noted that concerns about sexual assault, racial inequality and divestment sparked tensions “as people on differing sides of issues felt that others simply weren’t listening or weren’t taking the actions they thought appropriate. Some felt disrespected, while others felt silenced.” The broad goal of OpenXChange is “to strengthen the Stanford community” and promote “mutual respect even around areas of intense disagreement” through a yearlong series of events.

At the September Faculty Senate meeting, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Harry Elam and Jane Shaw, dean for religious life, described the seeds of the program, which is meant to engage, educate and encourage intellectual debate about major current issues. Planned activities so far include a “listening tour” where administrators visited dorms; a dinner for senior administrators and students; guest speakers; and a series of thematic open office hours, one of which will be hosted by philosophy professor Debra Satz. However, Elam and Shaw emphasized that the success of OpenXChange depends on evolving participation “from the ground up,” be it through workshops, service projects, exhibits or performances.

To that end, a student advisory council will disperse grants for student initiatives, and faculty are encouraged to develop courses with the aims of OpenXChange in mind. As a guiding framework, each quarter has a theme: Stanford and the World (fall), Stanford and the Nation (winter), and Stanford and Our Community (spring).  A winter symposium on criminal justice in the United States titled  “Presumed Guilty” will feature Sen. Cory Booker, ’91, MA ’92, psychology professor Jennifer Eberhardt and law professor Robert Weisberg.  

Elam also announced that in the spring, Hennessy and Etchemendy will co-teach a course on leadership.