As I stroll round campus studying chalked messages and posters, and as I learn The Stanford Every day, the Stanford Report and the Stanford Overview, I’m saddened. This isn’t the Stanford that after made me so proud to be its provost.
There have been many events for delight throughout my years as provost: Nobel Prize bulletins, wins on the Rose Bowl, scholar performances in MemAud. However for me, my proudest day at Stanford was Jan. 29, 2010.
That was the day we had been visited by the Westboro Baptist Church, a wierd cult that traveled the nation to unfold their message of hate towards gays, members of the Armed Forces and, notably, Jews. This cease on their tour was focused at Stanford Hillel, the place they deliberate to spew their deranged antisemitism towards members of the Stanford Neighborhood.
When phrase of their coming unfold by campus, the president and I obtained many calls for that we stop them from demonstrating. We may have. We’re a personal college on non-public property, and we will stop entry to outsiders if we so select. However we didn’t. We’re a college, and a college stands for nothing if not the free expression of viewpoints — true or false, supported or unsupported, agreeable or repugnant.
Phrase unfold that the college wouldn’t stop the demonstration, that the Westboro “Church” could be allowed to chant their hate at Hillel’s entrance door. The College would after all bodily shield the members of Hillel, however equally shield the unwelcome Westboro guests.
Then the day arrived. No plans had been made, no name went out, however the Stanford group responded by itself. A whole lot and a whole bunch of Stanford college students, college and employees spontaneously arrived to encompass Hillel in a group embrace. On the entrance of the Stanford crowd was the Muslim Pupil Consciousness Community and the Islamic Society of Stanford, proudly exhibiting their assist for his or her Jewish counterparts.
Talisman confirmed up and led the group with songs of affection and beauty. Then from the sting of the throng a bagpiper performed “Superb Grace,” and all of us joined in. Ultimately, our Westboro visitors packed up their indicators of hate and quietly left campus. They by no means made Stanford a cease on their odious excursions once more.
As I stated on the time, I’ve by no means been prouder of our college. Others agreed. However one thing has been misplaced, at our college and in our society at giant, one thing we desperately have to get again: the flexibility to disagree, to dispute, to debate, with out questioning our opponents’ elementary dignity and humanity. In 2010, we didn’t have a DEI program to mandate range and inclusion. This was not as a result of there was no strife or hatred on this planet. The Intifada was a latest reminiscence, and the U.S. was nonetheless responding to the occasions of 9/11. However we noticed ourselves as a group of students, who approached even probably the most agonizing occasions with compassion and understanding — and a willpower to discover a answer.
Our present president and provost have obtained a substantial amount of criticism from college students and alumni who need them to take a stand, to return down clearly and unequivocally in favor of their very own most well-liked stance. However President Richard Saller and Provost Jenny Martinez have carried out precisely what a president and provost ought to do. It’s their duty, above all, to keep up the potential for rational, respectful debate, even about probably the most tragic and divisive circumstances going through the world. It’s our duty as an instructional group to have interaction on this debate with compassion and respect for these with whom we disagree, to not look to the college to guarantee us that our aspect is true.
John Etchemendy served because the twelfth provost of Stanford College from 2000 to 2017.