FLI students challenge FLI Office director selection process

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Following Tuesday’s announcement that Symone Morales would serve as the next director of the First-Generation and/or Low-Income (FLI) Office, FLI students have raised concerns about the timing of the decision and the lack of input students were given in the decision-making process. 

“Our issue lies with the fact that the deep wisdom and work of generations of students were devalued and ignored by admin,” wrote Kiara Bacasen ’21, co-president of the FLI Partnership (FLIP) student organization, in an email to The Daily.

Bacasen was part of the student leadership who petitioned for Jennifer Rolen, the FLI Office’s previous acting director, to be reconsidered for the director role after Rolen was eliminated from the selection process in winter quarter. 

Rolen told The Daily that she would always be a resource for FLI individuals. 

“While I’m not sure what things will look like moving forward, I am sure that there are great things on the horizon,” she wrote. “I know that there are many people at Stanford who care deeply for FLI students.” 

The decision to pass over Rolen as director left many students dissatisfied. 

“It is abundantly clear that Jenn was and continues to be the person who we believe should fulfill this role,” said Undergraduate Senator Verónica Ayala ’22. “This is evident through the thousands of supportive emails, the petition which garnered over a thousand signatures, and the resolutions that the senate passed.”

Bacasen said the situation, coming at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has led to upheaval for many students, was unfair not just to FLI students but also to Morales.

“While we do not doubt Symone’s abilities, the fact that she needs to take the time to learn about and navigate our community/complex ongoing projects is unfair to FLI students and other FLI Office staff, especially now where time is of essence,” Bacasen wrote. “Now, she has even more issues to navigate and more relationships to mend simply due to the poor decisions of those that hired her.”

Morales did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment. Student Affairs spokesperson Pat Harris told The Daily that the University has “no further information to provide at this time.” 

In an email to FLI students announcing that Morales had accepted the role, Assistant Vice Provost of Student Affairs Jan Barker-Alexander wrote, “I recognize I/we still have trust to build with members of the FLI Community.” 

“We are all committed to do the hard work to create a strong foundation that will support our collective engagement,” Barker-Alexander added.

In the future, students hope that the University will consider their voices in decision-making.

“I think this also serves as a reminder that the University needs to work on bringing in student voices to the table when it comes to decisions like these,” Ayala wrote. “In order to cater to a community’s needs, their voices and wants must be priorities.”

Contact Esha Dhawan at edhawan ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Esha Dhawan '23 is a Science & Technology Desk Editor interested in the intersection of science and communication. She is majoring in human biology and minoring in creative writing. Contact her at edhawan 'at' stanford.edu.