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By the Stanford Daily Editorial Board, October 29, 2023
Stanford is again in newspaper headlines. Most notably, The New York Times recently published a column titled “The War Comes to Stanford,” highlighting students’ speech, banners and chalk messages around campus. Other universities have been under as much, if not more, scrutiny. This is not a new phenomenon; college students’ reactions to current events have long stoked heated debate.
As a Board, we are grateful to attend university in a country with the greatest free speech protections in the world. That scope of freedom includes the expression of beliefs that we may consider immoral, inflammatory or even factually incorrect, all in the shared interest of our own speech not being silenced for these very reasons.
We are also fortunate to be under the leadership of President Saller and Provost Martinez, who have come out strongly in defense of free speech within both legal limits and Stanford community guidelines — despite strong opposition from some. The alternative to ban, condemn or censor such speech would make Stanford the arbiter of acceptable speech, which is not a position that any leading research institution should take.
Vindictive retaliation to students’ political expression can dampen free speech on college campuses. To be clear, we do not believe that college students deserve any sort of special pass to speak without facing the associated consequences. However, students should not receive threats to their safety on the basis of their opinions.
We believe that being held accountable means that our views may — and should — be questioned and criticized. Our ideas may be lambasted; they may be called unacceptable and disgusting. But recent years have seen targeted efforts to punish students by exposing personal information such as their email and home address, opening the gateway for online harassment and physical danger. These include doxxing trucks parading the names and faces of college students who voiced strong opinions on geopolitical issues, Turning Point USA’s “Professor Watchlist” which includes undergraduate students, harassment of student journalists and doxxing campaigns against professors and alumni. Such attacks do not constitute engagement with someone’s ideas, but rather an attempt to humiliate and punish those who take staunch stances on social and political issues. It is these threats — especially when issued by those who wield the power to realize them — that chill speech, as students rightfully fear for their safety and future prospects. As a college student in this environment, is it better to be silent or to test your ideas? Either choice seems unacceptable according to social media, yet at least silence carries less risk. But our country’s educational institutions should be incubators of ideas, which requires us to engage with a diversity of interpretations. Students should be free to challenge and contradict their peers’ views, and even their own. This is how we learn about the world with nuance, change our minds and reinforce our beliefs. Some may say that such a view is nice in theory, but dangerous when words hold so much power to stoke hatred. It is undeniable that the modern world exists in a continual war of information and the presentation of that information. We must each acknowledge the weight of that responsibility: that our words have the real ability to harm and misinform others. Incitement that is likely to produce violence is, of course, unacceptable. Despite these risks, the alternative of a quiet campus is far worse. As the Supreme Court has held over the ages, we must preserve a free market of ideas so that the best ones may prevail through trial and scrutiny. If we fail to do so, instead choosing to silence the voices of our opponents out of fear that their views will overwhelm ours, we will have lost all faith in our peers — and the future of our country. ---------- The Editorial Board consists of Opinion columnists, editors and members of the Stanford community. Its views represent the collective views of members of the Editorial Board.
Prof. Russell Berman: Does Academic Freedom Have a Future at Stanford?
[Editor's note: These remarks were delivered by Professor Russell A. Berman at Stanford's Faculty Senate meeting on January 26, 2023 and were published in The Stanford Review on February 1. Prof. Berman's remarks refer to Stanford's Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative. See also President Tessier-Lavigne's letter to the Stanford community on this issue dated January 4, 2023 and posted at our Stanford Concerns page.]
The EHLI has been a catastrophe for the university. It has shaken the faith of faculty and students in the university's commitment to academic freedom and free speech. The authors of the list have an indisputable right to express their opinion, even though I disagree with their understanding of semantics. The problem results from the endorsement of the list by the universityʼs Chief Information Officer (CIO) and his Council. That makes it policy. But we have been told by the university leaders that the elimination list is not policy. There seems to be confusion as to who is in charge. The goal of EHLI, as stated, is protecting university members from allegedly harmful words. Such words are to be purged, but if we purge words, we ban ideas, and we ban books. By this logic of avoiding harm, I will not be able to teach poems by T.S. Eliot because of their antisemitism which might cause harm. I wonʼt be able to teach Huckleberry Finn nor, for that matter, Grapes of Wrath because of racist language. We should ban Richard Wrightʼs Native Son or Toni Morrisonʼs Beloved for treatments of sexual violence, which may cause harm. This is a road we must not go down. It is not the role of a university to protect students or anyone else from difficult ideas or words. On the contrary, we need the intellectual courage to confront them, and we faculty have to regain the assurance that the university supports us when we do so. That trust in the administration has been lost. This is bitter: we need to confront the real status of academic freedom at Stanford honestly. People have become fearful of voicing their opinions. I have heard from students, worried about the sanctions they may face for word choices. I have heard from a junior colleague, fearful that expressing his views would jeopardize a promotion. I have heard from a senior colleague who feels like she is walking on eggshells in her lectures. And for lecturers without job security, academic freedom remains as elusive as ever. This is not a healthy atmosphere. The way to fix it is by asserting faculty oversight in a university run solely by administrators, like the CIO-Council, where there is no faculty presence and where, evidently, there is no appreciation for academic values. Stanford can do better. In 1900 Jane Stanford had President Jordan fire a faculty member for his political views. Distinguished members of the faculty resigned. An indirect result was the founding of the AAUP (American Association of University Professors), but the fight for academic freedom began here, at Stanford. We have a historic obligation not to let it die here. In the words of former President Donald Kennedy, there are times when "faculties can take hold of the values of their institutions, defend them successfully, and make a reality of the vision of the academy under even the most stressful challenges." This is the time for the Senate to show its character. Russell A. Berman is the Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. At Stanford, Professor Berman is a member of the Departments of German Studies and Comparative Literature. He specializes in politics and culture in Europe and the Middle East.
John Etchemendy: ‘The Threat From Within’
Former Stanford Provost John Etchemendy, in a 2017 speech before the Stanford Board of Trustees, outlined challenges higher education is facing in the coming years. Following is an excerpt from that talk.
Universities are a fundamental force of good in the world. At their best, they mine knowledge and understanding, wisdom and insight, and then freely distribute these treasures to society at large. Theirs is not a monopoly on this undertaking, but in the concentration of effort and single-mindedness of purpose, they are truly unique institutions. If Aristotle is right that what defines a human is rationality, then they are the most distinctive, perhaps the pinnacle, of human endeavors. I share this thought to remind us all why we do what we do – why we care so much about Stanford and what it represents. But I also say it to voice a concern. Universities are under attack, both from outside and from within. The threat from outside is apparent. Potential cuts in federal funding would diminish our research enterprise and our ability to fund graduate education. Taxing endowments would limit the support we can give to faculty and the services we can provide our students. Indiscriminate travel restrictions would impede the free exchange of ideas and scholars. All of these threats have intensified in recent years – and recent months have given them a reality that is hard to ignore. But I’m actually more worried about the threat from within. Over the years, I have watched a growing intolerance at universities in this country – not intolerance along racial or ethnic or gender lines – there, we have made laudable progress. Rather, a kind of intellectual intolerance, a political one-sidedness, that is the antithesis of what universities should stand for. It manifests itself in many ways: in the intellectual monocultures that have taken over certain disciplines; in the demands to disinvite speakers and outlaw groups whose views we find offensive; in constant calls for the university itself to take political stands. We decry certain news outlets as echo chambers, while we fail to notice the echo chamber we’ve built around ourselves. This results in a kind of intellectual blindness that will, in the long run, be more damaging to universities than cuts in federal funding or ill-conceived constraints on immigration. It will be more damaging because we won’t even see it: We will write off those with opposing views as evil or ignorant or stupid, rather than as interlocutors worthy of consideration. We succumb to the all-purpose ad hominem because it is easier and more comforting than rational argument. But when we do, we abandon what is great about this institution we serve. It will not be easy to resist this current. As an institution, we are continually pressed by faculty and students to take political stands, and any failure to do so is perceived as a lack of courage. But at universities today, the easiest thing to do is to succumb to that pressure. What requires real courage is to resist it. Yet when those making the demands can only imagine ignorance and stupidity on the other side, any resistance will be similarly impugned. The university is not a megaphone to amplify this or that political view, and when it does it violates a core mission. Universities must remain open forums for contentious debate, and they cannot do so while officially espousing one side of that debate. But we must do more. We need to encourage real diversity of thought in the professoriate, and that will be even harder to achieve. It is hard for anyone to acknowledge high-quality work when that work is at odds, perhaps opposed, to one’s own deeply held beliefs. But we all need worthy opponents to challenge us in our search for truth. It is absolutely essential to the quality of our enterprise. I fear that the next few years will be difficult to navigate. We need to resist the external threats to our mission, but in this, we have many friends outside the university willing and able to help. But to stem or dial back our academic parochialism, we are pretty much on our own. The first step is to remind our students and colleagues that those who hold views contrary to one’s own are rarely evil or stupid, and may know or understand things that we do not. It is only when we start with this assumption that rational discourse can begin, and that the winds of freedom can blow.
Marc Tessier-Lavigne: 'Remarks on Our Campus Climate for Discussing Divergent Views'
I would like to address the nature of the conversations and discussions we have in our university community. Over the past several months, including in recent days, the provost and I have heard repeatedly from people of varied perspectives in our university community expressing concern that others, who hold different views from their own, are engaging in speech that intimidates, or silences, or otherwise harms people. We’ve heard these concerns from students, and also from faculty and staff. Sometimes, it has to do with an incident that has occurred on social media. In other cases, it’s about something that has occurred in a class or in our community at large. The concerns come from people on all sides of the political spectrum, and different issues have had often very different levels of visibility to the broader community. These concerns are fundamentally about the climate we have in our community for the discussion of divergent views. What I would like to express today has two parts: First, free expression is essential to the life of the university. Second, what is legally permissible to say is not necessarily the same as what we should aspire to as an intellectual community. We should seek a higher level of discourse than we sometimes see at Stanford. Several years ago, Persis and I posted a piece on the web, titled “Advancing free speech and inclusion,” that explained our approach to these issues. First, as a university, we deeply value free expression. The ability to express a broad diversity of ideas and viewpoints is fundamental to the university’s mission of seeking truth through research and education, and to preparing students for a world in which they will engage with diverse points of view every day. The administration is not the speech police; on the contrary, we seek to facilitate the exchange of a broad diversity of ideas. Second, when there is speech or conduct that someone objects to, we have processes in the university for reviewing specific complaints and determining if the action violates university policy. It’s important to understand that the bar is high for determining that speech has violated our policies. For instance, under the Leonard Law in California, the university cannot discipline students for speech that is protected by the First Amendment. The speech must meet a high legal threshold for unprotected speech, such as establishing a clear physical threat toward a specific individual. But the fact that one is free to say something in a particular way doesn’t mean that one should. This is a choice each of us has to make. And I believe, as a university, we should seek a high standard for the quality of discussion and debate in our community. Actions aimed not at engaging with and debating ideas but rather at suppressing them, including using social media to name-call or shame those with particular views – these go counter to what is needed to foster the open inquiry that our mission calls for. As president, I cannot mandate that people engage with each other in respectful ways, and the university cannot sanction people for what they say, absent a finding in a university process of the kind I mentioned. But I can champion respectful engagement; and I believe it is critical to this university that we are able to hear views and perspectives from across the ideological spectrum, and that we are able to engage with and debate those views in constructive ways. As members of this community, we will disagree on many things. We also have much to learn from one another and our differing views. Our common humanity should compel us to honor the dignity of one another as members of this community, even as we disagree. We also should value and model reasoned, fact-based discussion. It will produce deeper understanding, more learning from one another, more receptivity to the viewpoints we are seeking to advance, and a greater capacity to adjust our preconceptions in light of new information. I believe it is the kind of discussion our broader world needs, as well.
John Hennessy: 'The True Test of Free Speech'
The word university derives from a Latin term that essentially means “combined into one.” This centuries-old notion that many disciplines come together to form a whole is still at the center of how we understand the mission and life of Stanford and other great universities. I believe that this combining within the university goes beyond a mixing of disciplines. A university is also a mingling of scholars, experts and novices, from different backgrounds and with different values. It is a blending of scholarly approaches, experimental and theoretical. A university often hosts a rainbow of viewpoints on the most topical issues of the day. One goal of this amalgamation is to encourage all members of the community to think creatively and rigorously and to use the interplay of scholarly commentary to sharpen their insights. The exchange of contending and supporting ideas generated by insightful and engaged minds makes the position of university president one of the most interesting jobs in the world. The combination of intelligent, creative people and contentious issues can also be a volatile mix in any community, and perhaps especially so in a tightly knit intellectual community. It is very much in keeping with Jane and Leland Stanford’s original vision of the University that such issues would be part of the academic conversation. But what happens when the debate inspired by these issues is accompanied by passionate beliefs and widely divergent points of view? This year, in particular, the question has proved to be far more than hypothetical. Since students returned in September, a host of political and social issues have emerged, many of them affecting Stanford: the conflict in Israel and the occupied territories, the prospect of war with Iraq, terrorism and civil liberties, and affirmative action, to name a few. While the debates around some of these issues bring out the best thinking in people, they also engender strong feelings that can make civil intellectual exchange difficult. In fall quarter, for example, two speakers with disparate perspectives on world events addressed the Stanford community during the same week. The former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, MS ’79, spoke to a capacity audience at Memorial Auditorium. A few days later, poet and activist Amiri Baraka spoke before a group at Kresge Auditorium. Without comparing or equating these men, I can say they both elicited strong support from some and criticism from others. In the week prior to their speeches, there had been heated debate about their respective opinions and experiences, as well as whether each individual “deserved” to speak at Stanford. In advance of the speakers’ arrival, I wrote a letter to the Stanford community to reaffirm the principle of open, diverse and mutually respectful dialogue, especially on the controversial and difficult issues facing our nation and our world. My letter drew from the memorial service for Stanford’s renowned constitutional scholar Gerald Gunther, held just a few weeks earlier. At that service, President Emeritus Gerhard Casper recalled some of Professor Gunther’s most powerful words. “University campuses,” Gunther wrote, “should exhibit greater, not less, freedom of expression than prevails in society at large. . . .” In my letter, I recalled Professor Gunther’s words and reminded all members of the community of the importance of civil dialogue and freedom of expression, no matter how strongly they might disagree with a speaker. The speeches of Mr. Barak and Mr. Baraka brought us face to face with the often-repeated insight about free speech: defending the right of others to speak freely is easy when you agree with them, but the true test of the principle comes when it requires defending the rights of those espousing ideas directly in conflict with your own beliefs. The commitment to free and open speech runs deep at Stanford and is conveyed in the University’s motto, “The wind of freedom blows.” I am proud to say that both speakers were heard without interruption that week, and I was equally proud of the insightful and provocative questions posed to the speakers by Stanford students. The interactions between speakers and intelligent questioners demonstrated that civil dialogue does not inhibit the exploration of controversial issues or the ability of a questioner to challenge a speaker’s views. Instead, an open and civil debate encourages thoughtful and illuminating interchange. I sincerely believe that the challenging issues we face in the coming months will provide an opportunity for the Stanford community to show our fellow citizens that important and contentious questions can be addressed in a way that embraces the best values of free speech and academic freedom in a democratic society.
Gerhard Casper: 'Statement on Corry vs. Stanford University'
On May 2, 1994, nine Stanford students filed a lawsuit - Corry v. Stanford University - challenging the Fundamental Standard interpretation titled "Free Expression and Discriminatory Harassment." The Fundamental Standard has been the measure of conduct for Stanford students since 1896. It states: "Students at Stanford are expected to show both within and without the University such respect for order, morality, personal honor and the rights of others as is demanded of good citizens. Failure to do this will be sufficient cause for removal from the University." The Student Conduct Legislative Council put the interpretation - popularly known as the Grey Interpretation - into effect in 1990, spelling out when the face-to-face use of racial epithets or their equivalent would be viewed as harassment by personal vilification, and, therefore, as a violation of the Fundamental Standard. The interpretation relied on the so-called "fighting words" exception to the First Amendment. All other forms of speech at Stanford were protected. Nobody has ever been disciplined under this interpretation. On Feb. 27, 1995, the Santa Clara County Superior Court issued its decision in Corry. The court held that the Grey explication of the Fundamental Standard was unconstitutionally overbroad; that it did not proscribe all fighting words and was thus an unconstitutional viewpoint-based rule; and that California's so-called Leonard Law was constitutional. The Leonard Law is part of the 1992 State Education Code and bars non-religious private colleges and universities from disciplining students for speech unless government could prohibit the same speech. I should like to begin my comments on the case by giving my view concerning what the decision is not about. Various newspapers have quoted one of the plaintiffs as saying that this was a victory for academic freedom and free speech. If it was, I do not believe that it was needed. At a university that is committed to speaking plainly, without concealment and to the point, a ban on insulting fighting words based on group characteristics is not likely to have a chilling effect on almost all relevant speech. Academic freedom and free speech were quite safe at Stanford University before the decision. I came to Stanford after adoption of the Grey Interpretation, and my experience has been that debate about scholarly issues, as well as public issues, has been and continues to be uninhibited, robust and wide-open here. Second, the decision is not going to unleash torrents of hate speech at Stanford. This university is characterized by a remarkable extent of peaceful interaction. In spite of occasional incidents that are played up in the press - indeed, universities are no ivory towers - there are few institutions in American society that are, comparatively speaking, more successful than universities at encouraging their members to cross bridges. The Grey Interpretation was meant to express our community's strong commitment to civility or, in the old-fashioned words of the Fundamental Standard, respect for "personal honor and the rights of others as is demanded of good citizens." Civility at Stanford will continue ,with or without the Grey Interpretation. And harassment, whether accompanied by speech or not, including harassment that is motivated by racial or other bigotry, continues to be in violation of the Fundamental Standard. Third, it is ironic that, while opposing the university's rule on First Amendment grounds, the court endorsed the Leonard Law. I thought the First Amendment freedom of speech and freedom of association is about the pursuit of ideas. Stanford, a private university, had the idea that its academic goals would be better served if students never used gutter epithets against fellow students. The California legislature apparently did not like such ideas, for it prohibited private secular universities and colleges from establishing their own standards of civil discourse. Religious institutions alone can claim First Amendment protection in this regard. However, I seem to be about the only person who finds that governmental intrusion troublesome and uncalled for. Therefore, as Justice Holmes once said, "if I am alone, probably something is wrong with my works." The San Francisco Examiner called my position a "laughable convolution." I guess the Examiner must be right. I was born in 1937 in a country where racism had become government policy. I grew up in that same country as government and private institutions attempted to rethink civil society in the wake of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis. Therefore I confess to possessing less certainty about absolute positions than do the plaintiffs in Corry. To be sure, rules such as the Grey Interpretation ultimately may be futile in fighting bigotry. But should a private university not be permitted to struggle with the issue in its own, if imperfect, ways? When I ask this question non-rhetorically, I am told that racists and sexists also invoke freedom of association. Well, so they do, and I have no difficulty acknowledging a compelling state interest in eradicating discrimination. Extreme cases, however, make for bad law, especially as concerns the fragile private sphere. I disagree with the court's statement that the Grey Interpretation has nothing do with the four freedoms of a university, as put forward by Justice Frankfurter in his famous concurrence in Sweezy v. New Hampshire, i.e. a university's freedom "to determine for itself on academic grounds who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study." Until 1992, the State of California also respected a private university's right to set its own educational policies. Almost all other states do so to this date. Congress a few years ago resisted the temptation to do for the entire country what the state legislature has done for California. Principles of free speech are among those we most cherish, as Americans and as members of a university dedicated to the open, rigorous and serious search to know. Because these rights are so important and our country takes them so seriously, reasonable people entertain different views about doctrinal details, while strongly supporting the essence of free speech. Constitutional scholars - indeed, Supreme Court justices, even the four that attended Stanford - disagree about the line between what the Constitution protects and what it does not. For instance, the plaintiffs and the judge in this case rely heavily on a 1992 decision of the United States Supreme Court, R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul. I might point out that Justice Scalia's opinion in that case had the support of only four other justices. The four additional members of the Court agreed with the result but disassociated themselves from Justice Scalia's reasoning. After consulting with others on the matter and after listening to arguments on both sides, I have, nevertheless, concluded that, barring unexpected language in the final judgment, Stanford should not appeal the decision of the Santa Clara County Superior Court. I was not here when Stanford adopted the "Free Expression and Discriminatory Harassment" interpretation of the Fundamental Standard. Its passage by the Student Conduct Legislative Council after 18 months of discussion and debate left many on campus feeling ambivalent about it. I share that ambivalence. I am completely committed to Stanford's motto "Die Luft der Freiheit weht" - The wind of freedom blows. I do, indeed, believe that Stanford should voluntarily agree to be bound by the principles of free speech. However, such voluntary agreement to principles is not the same as being ordered by the state legislature to follow every twist of case law. In a perfect world of unlimited resources, we might test the court's ruling further. We do not live in that perfect world. With respect to this particular case, I have come to the conclusion that Stanford's limited resources of money, time, and attention are best kept applied to the central tasks of excellence and rigor in teaching, learning, and research. The 1990 interpretation was written narrowly as a statement of the university's belief that individuals should be free of harassment, intimidation, or personal vilification. Those acts have no place at Stanford or in any rational, civilized society. Among our most cherished values at Stanford are a belief in the power of reason, and in the right of each person to be accepted as an autonomous individual, free to speak and be listened to without regard to labels and stereotypes. As I have said, we have never had to use the 1990 interpretation. Harassment, threats or intimidation continue to be unacceptable. Should they go beyond what is protected by law, we will invoke university disciplinary procedures. Otherwise, we shall continue to do what we always have done. We shall counter prejudice with reason. The work of reason is hard work, as is the work of building and maintaining a great private university. I invite all faculty, students and staff to continue the work of reason.
Gerhard Casper: 'Concerning Culture and Cultures'
Members of the Stanford college class of 1997 and those among you who have had the splendid good sense to transfer to Stanford: On behalf of the University's faculty and staff, and your fellow students, both undergraduate and graduate, I warmly welcome you. We have looked forward to your presence with pleasurable anticipation because we know, on the basis of what we have learned about you, that you will be superbly qualified to test our abilities. Equally warmly I welcome parents, other relatives, and friends who have come along to lessen the apprehensions that our freshmen might have. For many parents this is not the easiest of tasks since they themselves are full of apprehension about this rite of passage and great adventure and about what lies ahead for their daughters and sons. I understand this. After all, as somebody once said to me in a striking mixed metaphor: "The future is an uncharted sea full of potholes." A newspaper columnist for the Olathe, Kan., Daily News, David Chartrand, wrote recently about the life of college freshmen: "You'll know right off that this isn't high school anymore when you wake up and realize there is no one telling you: To get out of bed. To get back in bed. To turn off the television. To avoid strangers. To go to bed and I swear I am not kidding this time. . . . To help with the dishes. . . To make your bed. . . . To eat your dinner. . . . To grow up. To stop growing up so fast." At Stanford we have no ambivalence about your growing up, nor will you hear the admonition "to avoid strangers." Quite to the contrary, you will be encouraged to go out of your way to meet strangers, to talk to strangers, to befriend strangers. The university and your fellow students offer you rich intellectual opportunities to explore and understand the many faces of diversity, here and abroad. The Stanford college class of 1997 is exceedingly diverse by any measure of academic achievements and interests, artistic and athletic accomplishments. It is also diverse as expressed by common demographic yardsticks, even though some of these categories tend to be overly general. Indeed, they understate rather than capture your diversity. Nonetheless, here are some figures from the demographic profile of the Stanford college class of 1997. 2% American Indian 5% foreign students from 37 different countries 9% African-American 10% Mexican-American 24% Asian-American 50% in that residual category called "white." This last category, whatever the government may mean by it, refers, of course, only to students from the United States. The American students come from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Very few among you have graduated from a high school or lived in a community with such diversity. Not many will have had much personal experience of interacting with people of different ethnic, racial, and cultural backgrounds. As you cross bridges to meet strangers at Stanford, the going will sometimes be rough. That, however, is an inevitable part of the excitement that college offers you. I should like to think through with you some of the issues that have become associated with diversity on college campuses. I do so because for you, our new students, these will be matters of great opportunity and challenge in the next few years. They are also, I am sure, of great interest, and sometimes concern, to you, the parents. Last May I received a letter from the parents of a graduating college student from which I should like to quote the most important passages. Dear Dr. Casper: Our son, Andy, graduates from Stanford in a few weeks. He has enjoyed Stanford... One of the reasons he elected to attend Stanford was the cultural richness of its student body. We recently received the Commencement schedule of events, and that concerns us. The following are some of the events shown: Chicano/Latino Graduation Ceremony Catholic Graduation mass and Reception Asian American Graduation Dinner Native American Graduation Dinner African American Graduation Program... We should like your thoughts on the policy apparently being fostered of separating students along racial, ethnic and religious lines as evidenced by the Commencement schedule. We noticed the same atmosphere at Stanford four years ago when we enrolled our son. There were admissions receptions for African American, Asian, Native American, and Latino students at that time. Interestingly, there appear to be no receptions or campus groups for white Anglo Saxon students - and well there are not. We applaud the efforts of Stanford to create a diverse academic atmosphere where various American cultures and ethnic groups can exchange ideas to enrich the whole academic environment. However, it appears that rather than creating an appreciation for diversity, Stanford is fostering separatism among its students. Isn't this the very thing Stanford is trying to eliminate in its admissions policies? Aren't we trying to create an amalgam of American culture rather than a cacophony? I sometimes get 50 or more letters a day. They address many issues and express very different opinions - indeed, they often make dissonant, cacophonous points. My staff and I answer almost all of them. My reply to Andy's parents stressed that Stanford is certainly not pursuing a policy of fragmentation. I did point out, however, that maintaining a diverse academic community does require that students and their families feel at ease, especially at such festive occasions as the opening of the freshman year or commencement. Alas, the pressures of time did not permit me to address the last paragraph of the letter. In a way, what I should like to do today is belatedly to think aloud about the questions it raises as to the multiplicity of cultures represented on campus and the university's own culture. Especially, I am interested in the letter's last question: "Aren't we trying to create an amalgam of American culture rather than a cacophony?" Let me begin by making the obvious point that students, like all other human beings, are individuals pursuing their individual aspirations, but they are also social beings. When they congregate with others on campus it does not necessarily mean that they are segregating themselves. Almost all of us have a tendency to hang out with people who are familiar, who share our background, who are "our own kind." We also have a tendency to form or join groups in order to accomplish some goals of ours. Any individual may associate with a range of different groups. The groups we belong to tend to maintain a group spirit. This is, incidentally, especially true as to the "group spirit" of American universities, Stanford included. The "Stanford spirit" was indeed one of the factors that enticed me to join the faculty last year. I trust you will embrace it quickly, because, whatever your differences may be, you have one thing in common - the choice of associating with Stanford. Individual development often takes place through groups. Our Constitution recognizes this fact and need by protecting the freedom of association as part of our First Amendment rights. Those who critically characterize various campus groups as students "segregating" rather than as students "associating" choose to construe the phenomenon, to quote Stanford alumnus Woodrow Myers, as alienation, rather than as a means for exploring cultural identity - though the latter interpretation is frequently the most plausible one. To be sure, the line between "congregation" and "segregation" is a fragile one. As you know, Stanford has a number of student residences that are designated as "theme houses" and some of these are ethnic theme houses. Stanford encourages interaction and guards against separatism by requiring that, in the case of the ethnic theme houses, no more than fifty percent of the residents may belong to the ethnic group that provides the "theme." This summer I talked with a student who during her freshman year had been assigned to one of these theme houses. She did indeed feel left out and ended up associating mostly with students from the "other" half. She liked neither the sense of exclusion nor the fact that, in this instance, "crosscultural interaction" did not work. Cases like this are bound to occur because universities are not immune to social developments and tensions. I do, however, view it as the institutions' responsibility, and indeed as the responsibility of Stanford students, Stanford parents, Stanford alumni to do their utmost to minimize the chances for exclusion, even as we provide opportunities for identifying one's social heritage. I shall return to this matter later on. The exploration of one's cultural identity has itself become a major theme in our country and our world. Experiences of social and political inequality have heightened emphasis on cultural differences. This in turn has led to what the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor refers to as "the politics of recognition." Taking off from the concept of the equal dignity of all citizens, we are asked to recognize the unique identity of an individual or group, their distinctness from everyone else. The phenomenon is both a domestic and a global one. Cultural conflicts seem to characterize our world at an ever escalating speed: with devastating and heartbreaking consequences in the former Yugoslavia or in Somalia, or in South Africa, where a few weeks ago, a former Stanford student, Amy Biehl, died while contributing to the dismantling of apartheid. More and more individuals seem to seek authenticity through some form of social identity and this social identity is, to a large extent, tied up with a notion of social heritage as one's "culture." I think it is very important to realize that this fairly old-fashioned definition of culture as "social heritage" owes much of its contemporary currency to the undeniable fact that minorities, in the United States and in many other countries, are emerging from experiences of subordination or even submersion. It is also the case that thinking in terms of "cultural wholes," in terms of distinct cultural identities, each more or less "complete," neglects the fact that there are myriad crossroads, bridges, and borderlands, especially in "a nation of immigrants" such as ours. To quote my Stanford colleague Renato Rosaldo: We all cross such social boundaries in our daily lives. Even... the nuclear family, is cross-cut by differences of gender, generation, and age. Consider the disparate worlds one passes through in daily life, a round that includes home, eating out, working hours, adventures in consumerland, and a range of relationships, from intimacy to collegiality and friendship to enmity. Radcliffe-Brown, the famous social anthropologist, spoke of culture as "the process by which a person acquires, from contacts with other persons or from such things as books or works of art, knowledge, skill, ideas, beliefs, tastes, sentiments." I, your president, am an immigrant which, of course, you would never have guessed listening to my accent. I came to the United States from Germany in 1964, at age 26, almost 30 years ago. When I moved initially to California my "cultural identity" was certainly predominantly German - whatever that means. It is said easily but there are, after all, many different ways to be German or Indian or American or Italian. The adage "When in Rome, do as the Romans do!" does not deprive one of choices. In my case the matter of identity was further complicated by the fact that there was little to identify with for somebody who grew up among the devastations of World War II and the cultural uncertainties and ambivalencies experienced by my generation in the wake of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis. Since 1964 I have lived in the United States, and have had contacts with people in every part of the country, with books, architecture, art, music, even, believe it or not, football. I have acquired an American "cultural identity" intermingled with my original German and European identifications. For 26 years I lived in Chicago - as Saul Bellow has shown, a rather rich cultural challenge all by itself. I am now interacting with "the Stanford culture." In addition, I have played many different roles, some of them on both sides of the Atlantic: the roles of son, student, husband, father, professor of constitutional law, dean, provost, president, friend, citizen - to mention but a few. The content and demands of these roles have been changing for me, as they have been changing for all of you. We have a difficult time indeed as we attempt to distinguish those traditional contents of a role that are worth retaining from those that should be discarded. Each of us has so many different roles with changing demands that most of the time it even seems beside the point to search for a role model - even a single specific role can be played in various ways, just like Hamlet. I think I have only one identity, but my identity, like yours, reflects myriad cultural influences and role expectations, which I have fused, adapted, integrated in my own individual way. An acquaintance of mine who had come to the United States through various waystations from Eastern Europe, once said: "I would go back to where I came from, if I hadn't come from so many places." Each one of us is actually "multicultural," has come from "so many places." Each one of us will become even more multicultural as we befriend more "strangers." Indeed, it is the opportunity to meet "strangers" that adds special pleasures to life, especially at a university. So, were Andy's parents right when they rhetorically asked: "Aren't we trying to create an amalgam of American culture rather than a cacophony?" It may surprise you to hear that I do not think that they were right. There is a great difference between a distillation that you have freely produced yourselves and one ordained by the university in accordance with its social engineering schemes. "We," in this case Stanford University, have no particular mandate to create a "culture," be it an "amalgam" or a highly differentiated one. Each one of you will develop your own version of cultural identity, will become a person. Your fellow students and your faculty and members of the staff, and therefore, in a manner of speaking, "the" university, will obviously make many contributions to your cultural formation. All of this will happen whether any of it is intended or not. As T. S. Eliot has said: "Culture is the one thing that we cannot deliberately aim at. It is the product of a variety of more or less harmonious activities, each pursued for its own sake." Culture is a highly dynamic concept. No culture is ever frozen, not even those that are completely isolated. One's social heritage does not come neatly packaged in an ice cube that can be thawed for reference and use. Nor are we frozen into a particular culture. But it is not for the university in its institutional role to tell you to blend in or to remain separate, to embrace an "amalgam" or to reject it. Whether the United States is best understood as a "melting pot" or a "mosaic" you will decide. However, neither of these metaphors of rather dubious analytic quality is a normative component of Stanford's "mission statement." It is not our goal to mold you in a particular way. What is university policy is "a commitment to actively learning about and interacting with a variety of different people." If we at the university were not committed to interactive pluralism, education would become impossible. Of course, this does not mean that the university should ignore the fact that different students have different interests and wants and that the institution's diversity creates acculturation difficulties for individuals that need to be attended to with care. The university is an institution dedicated to the search to know, the search to know of each member in her or his individual capacity. You were admitted to Stanford as individuals not in groups. No university can thrive unless each member is accepted as an individual and can speak and will be listened to without regard to labels and stereotypes. While the university has no right to tell you who you should become, with what groups to associate or not to associate, university citizenship entails the obligation to accept every individual member of the community as a contributor to the search to know. In a university nobody has the right to deny another person's right to speak his or her mind, to speak plainly, without concealment and to the point. In a university discussion your first question in response to an argument must never be "Does she belong to the right group?" Instead, the only criterion is "Does she have a valid argument?" An argument must not be judged by whether the speaker is male or female, black or white, American or foreign. I could end here and thus avoid some additional problems. However, let me retain you for a few moments more. If what I just said suggests to you that I see the university as by and large neutral territory where cultures clash, interact, adapt, and change while the institution itself is committed to cultural relativism, with no ideas and values of its own, you would be quite wrong. A university has a culture, an identity of its own. Its identity is tied to its work. Its work, as I said, consists of the search to know. The search to know is carried out by critical analysis, according to standards of evidence that themselves are subject to examination and reexamination. They cannot be set by a political diktat. Thomas Jefferson spoke of freedom as "the first born daughter of science." What I like to refer to as the "republic of learning" is committed to, I quote the philosopher Martha Nussbaum, "the Stoic ideal of the kosmou polites, or 'citizen of the entire world', that is, the ideal of being a person who can argue intelligently about the most important matters with human beings the world over, not being shut out of such debate by narrowness or prejudice." As Randolph Bourne wrote during the first World War: A college where such a spirit is possible even to the smallest degree, has within itself the seeds of this international intellectual world of the future. It suggests that the contribution of America will be an intellectual internationalism which goes far beyond the mere exchange of scientific ideas and discoveries and the cold recording of facts. It will be an intellectual sympathy which is not satisfied until it has got at the heart of the different cultural expressions, and felt as they feel. It may have immense preferences, but it will make understanding and not indignation its end. Such a sympathy will unite and not divide. The work of the university is universal by aspiration and character. The "republic of learning" reaches from Florence to Stanford, from Stanford to Kyoto, from Kyoto to Santiago, from Santiago to Moscow - all places, incidentally, where Stanford has a presence, as it has in Paris, Berlin, and Oxford. I know few universities that are better positioned than Stanford on the Pacific Rim to be at the center of this "republic of learning." The "republic of learning" has values that it prizes above all others: freedom (not just academic freedom), nondiscrimination (you will be heard regardless of your sex, race, ethnicity, religion), and equality of opportunity. It is not a mere coincidence that these are also the values, if at times distorted or forgotten, of our country. Nor is it a coincidence that the culture envisioned by Jane and Leland Stanford, as put forward in the 1885 Founding Grant for the University, comprised "teaching the blessings of liberty regulated by law, and inculcating love and reverence for the great principles of government as derived from the inalienable rights of man to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." These purposes are not a coincidence, because studies cannot blossom and minds cannot move unless these rights prevail, unless the wind of freedom blows, not only at the university but also in the wider society. "The wind of freedom blows" - Die Luft der Freiheit weht - is the motto that appears in the seal of the President of Stanford University. It was chosen by Stanford's first president, David Starr Jordan. In a symbolic expression of the fact that the "republic of learning" knows no national or cultural boundaries President Jordan employed the motto that can be traced to the humanist Ulrich von Hutten in German rather than English. In June I wrote a letter to all Stanford alumni in which I discussed undergraduate education. The letter triggered responses from hundreds of our former students. Among them was one from Walter Pendergrass in Portland, Oregon. Mr. Pendergrass told me how, after the first train ride of his life, he arrived in September of 1942, "a very unsophisticated, shy and apprehensive seventeen and a half year old." He concluded his reminiscences by writing, and I quote: "So what do I remember from yesterday and hope for today, and tomorrow? A Stanford where there is a warm and honest welcoming to all; where there is exciting, challenging and rewarding opportunity to learn academically and to be a positive part of the world; and where there is opportunity to reflect that we are but a very small part of a very big picture." This is one summary of what I hope for you, the Stanford college class of 1997. It is also, in a way, a summary of what I have said this afternoon, if in a somewhat more elaborate and complicated way. It is an expression of the "Stanford spirit." Once again, Stanford extends a "warm and honest" welcome to all of you and to your families and wishes you an "exciting, challenging, and rewarding opportunity to learn" so that you may experience the pleasures that come from studies blossoming and minds moving.