Letter from Stanford faculty about subcontracted workers

April 7, 2020, 12:22 p.m.

Over the past weekend, a small group of concerned faculty met on Zoom with student organizers. By Monday we had composed and posted a letter to the administration for other faculty to sign. Within 24 hours we had gathered nearly 100 signatures from schools and departments across campus. The petition will remain open until Stanford agrees to pay continuation. It is Stanford who decides what will happen next, not the contractor that Stanford employs. The letter is below.

We write as concerned members of the Stanford faculty. While we understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has produced an unprecedented crisis, causing a substantial financial impact on Stanford’s operating budget and endowment, we are troubled by Stanford’s decision to help lessen that impact by asking its contractor, UG2, to cut costs, leading the company to lay off over a hundred subcontracted workers.

We commend Stanford for its proactive stance throughout this crisis, which demonstrates the unique leadership role that Stanford plays nationally and globally. Stanford also has the opportunity to make a difference by reaffirming higher educational institutions’ commitment to supporting the most vulnerable members of our respective communities, particularly in times of crisis.

Stanford rightly prides itself in design and innovation, yet some aspects of its response to this crisis embrace the reproduction of existing, inequitable labor hierarchies rather than the creation of new support systems that reflect our interdependence. We have taken the lead in some ways (such as recognizing the magnitude of the public health threat and closing campus early), while appearing to fall behind in other ways, in this instance by allowing workers to be laid off and neglecting to adequately recognize, in meaningful and material ways, the people whose labor is fundamental to sustaining the university.

We are puzzled that Stanford is unwilling to do what several of our peer institutions — Harvard, MIT , University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania and Duke — have done, namely to retain and pay their subcontracted workers through the end of the academic year, even as they are unable to work due to on-campus changes related to COVID-19. Instead, Stanford has committed to paying only its directly hired service workers through April 15. We are severely disappointed at Stanford in this regard, and we wish to add our voices to many others to urge Stanford to reconsider this action, and to do the right thing.

As much as we note with pride the essential work our scientific and medical communities have contributed to the battle against the virus, we must never forget who cleans the labs and the buildings where we conduct our research, who grooms the grounds and who serves our food. 

We commend the president and the provost for taking a significant cut in pay; this is a true act of leadership. We commend our undergraduate students who through their own initiative and their energy have raised more than $230,000 to provide emergency funds for laid off workers and gathered over 2,000 signatures on a petition in support of pay continuation. Our students have made extraordinary efforts to support laid off workers while adjusting to numerous disruptions and managing countless concerns and uncertainties. It strikes us as inequitable that undergraduates would carry this weight as well.

Thus, in the spirit of sharing the burden, we pledge to donate each month a portion of our salaries to those workers who have been laid off. We are posting our donations to this GoFundMe.

Despite these sacrifices and donations, this leaves a large amount still lacking.  Therefore, we call upon Stanford to commit to pay continuance for all service workers through spring quarter.

As Margaret Levi, director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford, professor of political science, and senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment, writes:

“We are in a community of fate that COVID-19 has created. Our destinies are now clearly entwined as we join together to fight this virus and protect ourselves and our societies. The pandemic makes us aware of our reliance on and obligations to a wide network extending beyond family, friends, and neighbors to all those who contribute to our health care, supply chains, education of our children, etc. Even the invisible workers are becoming visible: the grocery clerks, the cleaners, the sanitation personnel who make it possible to survive and thrive. Such a community of fate can cut across polarization and become the basis of mobilization for the policies to promote flourishing.”

Workers at Stanford are cherished members of our community. We must be as committed to supporting them as they have been to supporting us.


Rush Rehm, Professor of Classics, and Theater and Performance Studies
Jonathan Rosa, Associate Professor of Education and, by courtesy, Anthropology and Linguistics
David Palumbo-Liu, Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor and Professor of Comparative Literature, and, by courtesy, English
Todd Davies, Associate Director and Lecturer, Symbolic Systems Program
Allyson Hobbs, Associate Professor of History and Director of African & African American Studies
Adrian Daub, Professor of German Studies and Comparative Literature
Adam J Banks, Professor, Graduate School of Education
Amado M Padilla, Professor Graduate School of Education
Rose Salseda, Assistant Professor, Art & Art History
Hakeem Jefferson, Assistant Professor of Political Science
Alexander Key, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature
Ana Minian, Associate Professor of History
Duana Fullwiley, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Tom Mullaney, Professor of History
Sarah Levine, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Education
Ramon Saldivar, Professor of English & Comparative Literature
Cecile Alduy, Professor, French and Italian Department; Chair, DLCL
Sylvia Yanagisako, Edward Clark Crossett Professor of Humanistic Studies, Professor of Anthropology
Laura Wittman, Associate Professor, dept. of French and Italian
Jeffrey Koseff, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Zephyr Frank, Professor of History
Charles Lee, Professor of Accounting, Graduate School of Business
Paula Moya, Professor of English
Barbara Voss, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Guadalupe Valdes, Bonnie Katz Tenenbaum Professor of Education
Sean Follmer, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Julia Salzman, Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry and of Biomedical Data Science
Roy Pea, David Jacks Professor of Education and Learning Sciences,
Usha Iyer, Asst Professor, Art and Art History
David Tse, Professor of Electrical Engineering
Paul Kiparsky, Professor of Linguistics
Kabir Tambar, Associate Professor, Anthropology
Patricia Alessandrini, Assistant Professor, Department of Music, Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA)
Judith Frydman, Donald Kennedy Chair in the School of Humanities and Sciences and Professor of Genetics
Jody Maxmin, Associate Professor of Art History & Classics
Chris Ré, Associate Professor of Computer Science
Karla Oeler, Associate Professor (Teaching) of Film and Media Studies
Shripad Tuljapurkar, Professor of Biology
Gail Wight, Professor, Dept. of Art & Art History
Dan Jurafsky, Professor, Linguistics and Computer Science, Chair Linguistics
Russ B Altman, Professor, Bioengineering, Genetics, Medicine
Penelope Eckert, Professor of Linguistics
Anshul Kundaje, Assistant Professor, Genetics, Computer Science
Jessica Negrette, Academic Affairs, School of Medicine
Maria Araceli Ruiz-Primo, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education
Lauri Karttunen, Adjunct Professor of Linguistics
Guillermo Solano-Flores, Professor of Education, Graduate School of Education
Mehran Sahami, Professor (Teaching) of Computer Science
Cleo Condoravdi, Professor, Department of Linguistics
Scott Bukatman, Professor, Art and Art History, Stanford U
Jeanne Merino, Lecture and Director, Stanford Law School
Christopher Manning, Professor, Linguistics and Computer Science
James Ferguson, Susan S. and William H. Hindle Professor
Roanne Kantor, Assistant Professor of English
Rodolfo Dirzo, Professor of Ecology, Biology Department and Woods Institute for the Environment
Sharika Thiranagama, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Amir Safavi-Naeini, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics
Stephen Monismith, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Miyako Inoue, Associate Professor, Anthropology
Paulla Ebron, Associate Professor Anthropology
Terry A Berlier, Associate Professor Department of Art + Art History
Matthew Kohrman, Associate Professor, Anthropology
Jay McClelland, Lucie Stern Professor, Department of Psychology
Jamie Meltzer, Associate Professor, Department of Art & Art History
Saad Gulzar, Assistant Professor of Political Science
Theodore Geballe, Emeritus Professor of Applied Physics and Material Science
Sarah Billington, Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering
Hideo Mabuchi, Professor of Applied Physics
Maria Barna, Associate Professor of Genetics
Nick McKeown, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Andrew Hoffman, Professor of Medicine
Chelsea Finn, Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
John Willinsky, Khosla Family Professor, GSE
Robert Crews, Professor, Department of History
Polly Fordyce, Assistant Professor, Bioengineering and Genetics
James Reichert, Associate Professor
Ian Morris, Professor, Classics
Young Jean Lee, Associate Professor of Theater and Performance Studies
Richard Martin, Antony and Isabelle Raubitschek Professor in Classics
John R. Rickford, Emeritus Professor, Linguistics
Saurabh Gombar, Clinical Instructor, School of Medicine
Pavle Levi, Professor, Film Studies
Srdan Keca, Assistant Professor, Art & Art History
Moses Charikar, Professor of Computer Science
Emma Brunskill, Assistant Professor of Computer Science
Omer Reingold, Professor, Computer Science
Heather Hadlock, Associate Professor, Music
Russell Poldrack, Albert Ray Lang Professor, Psychology
Philip Levis, Associate Professor, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
Zakir Durumeric, Assistant Professor of Computer Science
Margaret Levi, Director, CASBS; Professor of Political Science
Joseph Lipsick, Professor of Pathology, Genetics, and Biology (by courtesy)
Larry Katznelson, Professor, School of Medicine
Taia Wang, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases
Juliana Bidadanure, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy
Vaughn Rasberry, Associate Professor of English
Jean Ma, Associate Professor of Art & Art History
Linda Hess, Emerita Senior Lecturer of Religious Studies
Angele Christin, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication
Clark Barrett, Associate Professor (Research) of Computer Science
Birgitt Schuele, Associate Professor, Department Pathology
Caroline Trippel, Assistant Professor of Computer Science
Russ Feingold, Lecturer at SLS
Ian Hodder, Dunlevie Family Professor, Anthropology
Ato Quayson, Professor, English
Jeannette Bohg, Assistant Professor, Computer Science
Fred Turner, Harry & Norman Chandler Professor of Communication
Jisha Menon, Associate Professor of Theater and Performance Studies
Shane Denson, Assistant Professor, Department of Art & Art History
Anna Bigelow, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies
Lynn Meskell, Shirley R. and Leonard W. Ely, Jr. Professor, Department of Anthropology
Marci Kwon, Assistant Professor, Art & Art History
Michael Penn, Teresa Hihn Moore Professor of Religious Studies
J. P. Daughton, Department of History
Brent Sockness, Associate Professor, Religious Studies, Director, Ethics in Society Program
Gabrielle Hecht, Professor of History, Senior Fellow at CISAC/FSI
James Campbell, Professor of History
Richard Roberts, Frances and Charles Field Professor of History
Matthew H. Sommer, Professor and Chair, Department of History
Michelle Mello, Professor of Law, Stanford Law School, and Professor of Medicine, Stanford School of Medicine
Surya Ganguli, Associated Professor, Applied Physics

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