Stanford launches OpenXChange, year-long community-building initiative

Sept. 10, 2015, 10:56 a.m.

In an email to the Stanford community on Thursday, President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy announced OpenXChange, a year-long initiative for engagement and discourse around issues of contention within the University community. The initiative will combine large-scale events in venues such as Memorial Auditorium and CEMEX with small-scale discussions in Lucie Stern Hall.

“This initiative underscores Stanford’s commitment to meaningful interchange and thoughtful listening, as well as mutual respect even around areas of intense disagreement,” Hennessy and Etchemendy wrote in the statement.

The program will focus on a different topic each quarter of the academic year, with this fall’s theme being “Stanford and the World.” The theme will center on challenges that we face as global citizens and will include a look into questions of contention over the past year, such as the ethics of institutional divestment from fossil fuels, as well as a broader look into where and how Stanford allocates its resources and energy.

At present, OpenXChange is planned to go on for one academic year, and two events have been announced so far.

The opening event for fall quarter will be a listening tour in dining halls and other centers on campus, which will begin on the first day of classes. The tour will include a set of dinner discussions with faculty and administrators, such as Provost Greg Boardman and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Harry Elam, and consists of four tour dates in September and a final meal on Oct. 1.

During the second week of the quarter, OpenXChange will co-sponsoring a talk with Egyptian political satirist Bassem Youssef, former cardiac surgeon and host of the wildly popular “Al-Bernameg” program on the Egyptian channel MBC MASR. The event, open to the general public, will be hosted by the Program on Arab Reform and Democracy at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies’ Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. The talk is also co-sponsored by the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies.

The winter and spring quarter themes will be “Stanford and the Nation” and “Stanford and the Community,” respectively. Winter’s theme will take a deeper look into Stanford’s role in the national community, while spring quarter will focus on questions within the local Stanford community, such as those surrounding racial inequality and sexual assault.

“For many in our community, the last academic year was difficult as pressing issues such as sexual assault, racial inequity, and divestment demanded attention, ” Hennessy and Etchemendy said in the statement. “Some felt disrespected, while others felt silenced.”

New grant options available

As a part of encouraging faculty and student involvement in the initiative, OpenXChange will also offer small grants of various types. The overall goal of the grant program is to develop new classes and to modify existing courses to address issues important to the community. However, new courses developed from faculty research and regular course updates are not eligible.

Grant opportunities for students, called “Build It, Lead It” Grants, will be available starting winter quarter of this year. Students can receive up to $1,500 to design programs that inspire conversation within the community. The funds are intended for programs such as lecture series, service trips and visual display projects and will be accompanied by advising and logistical support from the Haas Center for Public Service, as well as the Vice Provosts for Student Affairs, Undergraduate Education and Graduate Education.

Applications for the winter will be due on Oct. 23 and require faculty sponsorship.


Contact Nitish Kulkarni at nitishk ‘at’

Nitish Kulkarni '16 is a senior majoring in Mechanical Engineering. He writes about technology and breaking news, and runs online content sections. Email him at nitishk2 'at'

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