After declining the Stanford College Republicans’ (SCR) request to enter Casa Zapata on Oct. 18, SCR members continued requesting entry with increasing levels of aggression, despite us explaining to them that Casa Zapata has a strict visitor policy created after repeated racist acts of vandalism targeting the dorm in the past few years.
Just two days later, on Oct. 20, a mob of SCR members proceeded to barricade the front entrance of the dorm while appearing to record the lobby with their phones, demanding they be let in to flyer. When students tried exiting the dorm, they felt threatened by a group of angry men who rushed to the door as soon as it opened and attempted to force their way in. When residents passed by the lobby, they felt attacked by those outside waiting for the opportunity to film anything they could twist and use for their propaganda. Students reported feeling unsafe in the dorm, one of the few spaces on campus whose main purpose is literally to be a safe space for marginalized groups.
As first generation, low-income (FLI) Latinx students, we find it outrageous that we cannot be allowed to protect one of our few safe spaces on campus without being threatened and harassed. Our strict visitor policy is not unfounded and is based off of previous years, when Stanford students entered Zapata to write disgusting messages on community whiteboards, such as “Build The Wall” and #MAGA last winter and spring. In an ethnic-themed dorm such as Zapata, where many students and their families have been personally affected by issues of race and immigration, these messages were obviously and rightfully perceived as more than just an expression of free speech, and were recognized as being overtly targeted and racist. Given the magnitude of the situation, the least Casa Zapata could do in order to ensure that public spaces within the dorm remained safe spaces for residents was adopting a visitor policy, which states that people can only be let into the dorm by the person they are coming to see, or by another student in the dorm who knows them. The fact that not a single individual in the dorm was willing to vouch for SCR and let them in, and that community members reported feeling unsafe in the presence of members of SCR, is a perfect indicator of the damage this group has already done in the community.
Although Casa Zapata remains an open and inviting space to outside community members, whom we fondly consider our “fourth-floor residents,” having to adopt policies to prevent students with more sinister motives from entering the dorm makes our efforts to build community more challenging. And that much more necessary. Because without spaces like Casa Zapata, where could students like us come together to elevate our voices? How many other students have had to deal with SCR’s thinly veiled acts of aggression and intolerance? How many more must do so before someone takes action?
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident, but rather another event in a trend that sees racist groups on campus target safe spaces and community centers, and we demand these groups be held accountable. After dealing with a campus administration which has refused to call these racist acts of intolerance by their name in previous years, we demand that they acknowledge them for what they are and move forward in creating positive change.
The very fact that as FLI, Latinx students we are even able to exist in this type of space is incredible, a testament not just to our capabilities, but also to the countless people in our communities who have supported us on this journey. This is why targeted attacks such as those conducted by SCR are so hurtful. At an institution that’s supposed to represent the best of the best, we find more of the same thing we have found all of our lives: racist and ignorant people. The only difference is that those at Stanford hide behind “free speech” as an excuse to promote their hate speech.
—Febe Martinez ’20 and Salvador Tello ’21, Casa Zapata student staff members
Contact Febe Martinez at febegm ‘at’ stanford.edu and Salvador Tello at stello ‘at’ stanford.edu.