Stanford issued an uncharacteristically lengthy response to the resignation of Hamzeh Daoud ’20 from his Norcliffe House staffing position — following two weeks of controversy over his Facebook post, which originally threatened to “physically fight” Zionists on campus. While Daoud’s initial remark is unacceptable for any student, let alone an incoming RA, to make, those attending this university or keeping up online know that threats of violence don’t begin or end with his post. The fundamental issue at play is the Stanford College Republicans’ extreme influence on and off the Stanford campus to the point of violating students’ privacy and University policy.
In their response, administrators stated that their priority was to “[follow] standard university procedure in cases of possible threat.” We are far from convinced. While the statement defused local tension in a sensitive political conflict, it failed to address the underlying issue: SCR’s bullying tactics used against Daoud and, previously, against myriad other community members.
When the safety of Professor Palumbo-Liu was threatened, or when members of SCR conspired with a professor to invade the privacy of a fellow student, there was no public indication that the university was concerned with following a “standard procedure.” In any case, whatever this “standard procedure” entails remains unknown.
By personally targeting specific students on their social media platforms, SCR has allowed for public vitriol and violence to shadow Stanford community members. The Stanford group has refused to accept responsibility for the consequences of these tactics, and disturbingly, seems eager to continue operating in a similar subversive vein. Ranging from the shocking — suggesting that genderqueer students are engaging in “sexual degeneracy” — to the pedantic — endorsing candidates in national races despite university policy explicitly banning such, there is a staggering number of SCR-related incidents last year that seem as if they should warrant university response. Yet, the silence of administrators has been deafening.
Now, we must ask: do these incidents not demand the same “fair and thoughtful consideration” as Daoud’s case?
In the face of a tumultuous and occasionally absurd political scene on campus last year, the public voices of administrators were conspicuously absent. And when senior administrators have issued statements, they noted the tension between free speech and inclusion without acknowledging that, too often, partisan proponents of free speech exercise that right as a means to actively and personally undermine other members of the community. What begins as a desire to uphold two opposing principles soon devolves into an unwillingness to distinguish between right and wrong.
Operating online and on campus, SCR has been able to bully and target opposing individuals with less administrative backlash because they are the sole group representing the campus’ conservative voice. Punishing Daoud for an individually represented statement resulted in administrative repercussions for one individual. But operating under their organizational guise, individuals within SCR can claim anonymity when spewing provocative opinions as a collective whole — and still avoid repercussions. To sanction the group as a whole would be a dramatic move that is bound to have profound ramifications, the brunt of which administrators will have to bear. That said, we believe it is also one that is necessary given the present circumstances.
Though we can certainly acknowledge and speculate on the reasons why Stanford has remained so frustratingly silent throughout these months of political unease, we can and should demand better from the university in mediating SCR’s unethical tactics. Before we can take seriously Stanford’s commitment to ensure that “all students feel a deep and abiding sense of welcome and belonging in our campus community,” administrators must show they can enforce university policy in a more consistent, transparent way. Only then could the Stanford community begin to see improvement to the campus political climate, which has become so poisoned over the past year.
To that end, we support Daoud’s decision to resign and to accept responsibility for his actions, and agree with the University that it was a decision which “puts the interests of the broader community first.” The celebratory statement issued by SCR in response to Daoud’s resignation, on the other hand, was as incendiary and careless as his was conciliatory and prudent.
Unfortunately, it shows the continuation of SCR’s now-long standing habit of levying unwarranted attacks against fellow members of the Stanford community, a habit which we are compelled to condemn in the strongest possible terms.
In light of the evidence presented above, we believe that Stanford must establish firm precedents for, and enforce boundaries on, what a student group such as SCR can do. On no level can threats of violence — nor childish provocations for controversy’s sake — be tolerated at Stanford. We call on President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Drell and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole to recognize the detrimental impact and permanent, life-altering consequences of SCR’s actions on Stanford community members in order to ensure the integrity of our campus discourse.
In order to move beyond the vitriol and division of this incident and the past school year, we need to maintain a basic level of decency towards fellow members of the Stanford community. However, in its present disposition, seemingly entirely dedicated to “[crushing] … [the] will to resist” of anyone who disagrees with it, we believe SCR is wholly incapable of rising to even this lowest of possible standards. If SCR continues to act in a way that is detrimental to the unity and interests of our community — and we think there is nothing so far to suggest otherwise — it is high time that the University recognizes the impact of this organization’s actions on the well-being of the Stanford community, and acts accordingly.