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Apr 8th, 2016
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  1. Dear Stanford Student,
  3. When you joined Stanford University, you became part of our diverse, vibrant community founded upon academic excellence, innovative thinking, collaborative engagement and civic responsibility.
  5. The challenge for us all is to balance freedom of thinking and expression with our responsibility to others. At Stanford, we believe one way to do this is for community members to engage in respectful conversations with each other. The goal of these exchanges is to foster a learning environment that includes multiple perspectives and life experiences different from our own, thereby affirming the value of all identities as distinctive strengths of our university community.
  7. At Stanford, we are each responsible for our words and actions, and we are accountable to the people in our community who are impacted by what we say, regardless of the initial intent.
  9. Free speech is paramount to the success of our academic community, and, at the same time, we must reject language that encourages or reinforces stereotypes and bigotry including racism, anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia, sexism, homophobia—discrimination of any kind. As James Baldwin says, “Language is a political instrument.”
  11. There is a long history in the United States of racial animus through satire that we all need to recognize. We must be careful of participating in and perpetuating inequities. Parodies or stereotypes of people of color, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientation and gender non-conformity have the effect—whether intended or not—to undermine the legitimacy and value of already marginalized people.
  13. Thus we must be particularly alert as to how our language, including the use of humor, can undermine the climate of respectful dialogue that we are building and be careful that it does not work to delegitimize critical claims toward the diversity that Stanford affirms.
  15. Humor and satire are powerful tools that can be provocative and profound; they can also be insensitive, hurtful and cruel. When we employ such tools, we need to measure the impact of our words and be responsive to those whose own experience is the basis for the intended humor.
  17. We know many in our community have felt the pain of recent events. And, as members of this community, we acknowledge your hurt. We want you to know that we care about you and value you.
  19. Integrity, empathy and accountability are foundational to our community, and it is our responsibility as ethical citizens to practice these actively with each other.
  21. Sincerely,
  23. Greg Boardman
  24. Vice Provost for Student Affairs
  26. Harry J. Elam, Jr.
  27. Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education
  29. Patricia J. Gumport
  30. Vice Provost for Graduate Education
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