Confronting baseless allegations: The SOCC endorsement process

April 13, 2015, 10:08 p.m.

Last night, the Stanford Review published an article levying troubling allegations of anti-Semitism and religious discrimination against the Students of Color Coalition. We are reaching out to the entire Stanford public to honestly and transparently refute these allegations.

The Stanford Students of Color Coalition came together in 1987, during a time when universities across the nation waged an attack on the salience of cultural and ethnic studies departments and de-prioritized campus diversity. Since SOCC’s establishment, we have naturally expanded our mission to advocate for and foster campus diversity of all forms — including thought, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientation, gender identity, political views, geographic origins, and religious beliefs.

Religious discrimination, like any form of discrimination, starkly violates the values on which the Students of Color Coalition is based. Were these allegations true, they would not only merit a public apology but also constitute a betrayal of both the communities SOCC represents and the ideas the coalition members promise to uphold.

However, these allegations are false; they do not reflect what actually transpired in the endorsement process and mischaracterize the aims of a SOCC endorsement. Out of respect for our values, trust in our endorsed candidates’ merits, and desire to engage directly with the Stanford community, we write to empower the public with more information about our endorsement process.

Every candidate that applies for our endorsement undergoes a rigorous vetting process, beginning with a written application. This year, we offered verbal interviews to all applicants, allowing leadership of our six communities to engage with every potential endorsee. In the interest of identifying students who could be effective and critically engaged senators, we looked for candidates who recognized the importance of celebrating identity, could articulate the nuances of the issues our communities deem important, and understood the significance of SOCC cross-community commitment.

We especially sought candidates who proved conscious and thoughtful about major issues pertinent to the greater Stanford community, including mental health, sexual assault, Senate transparency and funding reform. Since qualified candidates should display an understanding of recent Senate issues, we asked interviewees to expound on the way they might deal with issues that have come up within Senate this year.

Therefore, we incorporated a carefully-worded, standard question on divestment during the interview process. While all six member groups of SOCC endorsed the Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine initiative, we recognized that a wide spectrum of views exist concerning the issue. Therefore, we decided to ask candidates: If they had been elected Senators this year, how would they have handled the issue of divestment?

At no point was the question framed in the context of religious identification. Furthermore, our endorsement did not hinge on whether or not the candidates signed onto, supported, or would support Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine. By broadly asking how the candidate would “handle” the issue or ‘navigate’ the decision-making process, we hoped to hear answers fulfilling two major criteria, enumerated prior to all interviews: (1) a proposed action plan involving reaching out to all communities affected; and (2) a willingness to assume responsibility to make a decision. Our endorsed candidates exhibited these criteria while still expressing a diverse range of perspectives on divestment.

Similarly, allegations that any of our endorsees are precluded from affiliating with or receiving endorsements from other groups are unfounded. We reject the notion that religious or cultural identification might prevent someone from being an effective senator. Such a stance is in direct conflict with SOCC values.

We recognize such false allegations for what they are: the latest edition in a decades-long smear campaign* waged against our coalition, our principles, and our competency. We have endorsed students who understand the diverse interests and backgrounds of the student body and demonstrate great commitment, knowledge and passion for serving the diverse Stanford community. As you enter this election cycle, we encourage you to interface with our endorsed candidates directly; we are confident that you will find them as skillful as we did.

And if you — as an individual who shares our coalition’s aims of uplifting marginalized voices, honoring parallel experiences among diverse communities, and fostering student and faculty diversity — require more evidence that our endorsees will advocate for our aims, please refer to the contract that each candidate signed before receiving a SOCC endorsement. Through their commitment to maintain honest communication with our organizations, these candidates have poised themselves to act as our representatives, support our communities’ longevity, and consider and implement the interests of our community members.

*Examples of past Review articles regarding the validity of diversity written during election season. These are limited to links still live in the Review archives. Hard copies can be found in community center’s archives dating back to the paper’s founding in 1987. Why You Cannot Vote for SOCC [2013] Why I’m Dropping Out: A candid look at the ASSU elections process [2012] SOCC vs. SUN Headlines This Year’s Senate Election [2010] Special Fee Requests – The Bad and the Ugly [2009] Special Fees Reviews [2008] Special Fees: A look at this year’s Special Fee requests made by joint and undergraduate groups [2007] Editor’s Note: Vote Smart! [2006] Black Student Union Exploits Student Funding [2005] Stanford Students Say No to Racism | MEChA’s Special Fee Loss Step in Right Direction [2004] Stanford Uses Race in Determining Financial Aid [2002] Pounding The Nail in Horowitz’s Theses [2001]

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