Letter from the editors: Sharing the results of the Vol. 259 demographic survey

Aug. 23, 2021, 8:57 a.m.

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Team conducted its second demographic survey at the end of Volume 259. Our limited data shows that The Daily’s demographic profile is moving towards alignment with Stanford University’s demographic profile, especially upon considering the percentage of students in the organization who are first-generation and/or low-income (FLI), when compared with data taken from the last survey in Volume 258. 

Survey results have been made publicly available as part of our broader mission to increase transparency about The Daily and to hold ourselves accountable for our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Vol. 259 Demographic Survey data were collected anonymously to protect the privacy of individual staffers. The data are not fully representative of our staff, as only 88 staffers filled out the survey. (For comparison, 174 members of The Daily community were eligible to vote in the paper’s May 2021 election.) However, the responses still offer important insight into diversity, equity and inclusion at The Daily and will inform the DEI Team’s work going forward.

The survey shows that our staff is overwhelmingly made up of white and East Asian students, which is consistent with findings from the Vol. 258 Demographic Survey. Latinx and Native American students, on the other hand, are the most underrepresented among our staff when compared to the broader Stanford community, according to data collected by Stanford’s IDEAL (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access in a Learning Environment) initiative. That being said, because our survey allowed respondents to identify in two or more ways, it is difficult to make an exact one-to-one comparison between the datasets.

The vast majority of our staffers are also straight, cisgender and non-disabled. 17% of staffers are first-generation college students, and nearly 24% are legacy students. Roughly 65% of staffers classified themselves as upper-middle class or high-income and around 18% classified themselves as low-income or below or near poverty level.

Roughly 6% of staffers have simultaneously worked a federal work-study job while working at The Daily, and 49% of staffers receive some amount of need-based financial aid from the University. While data from the 2020-21 school year are not yet available, in the 2019-20 school year, 47% of all undergraduates received need-based aid from the University, according to the University’s Financial Aid website.

Almost two-thirds of respondents had no journalism experience before Stanford, an increase from Vol. 258’s 55%. Through structured staff training and mentorship opportunities, the DEI Team will continue to strive toward making The Daily an inclusive space for students of all academic backgrounds.

Crucially, while the published survey results give insight into various forms of diversity within our organization, they do not necessarily measure equity and inclusion. To address this limitation, we gave staffers the option to share their experiences with and thoughts about these topics in a written portion of the survey.

The qualitative feedback we received reflected a few key themes. Some staffers who filled out the survey stressed the importance of diversity in leadership positions, with one staffer writing that Daily leaders should “reflect the institution’s alleged commitment to DEI.” Other staffers contended that diversity in leadership positions will have a “trickle-down” effect by allowing staffers from underrepresented backgrounds to see themselves as future leaders. 

Another trend that we noticed in the survey results was staffers voicing concern about The Daily’s culture being a “cliquey environment.” Staffers suggested increased internal community building to avoid alienating or excluding staffers and working to ensure that all Daily members feel as though they are welcome at meetings, events and socials. 

Some staffers who filled out the survey championed more pay transparency across the board. With more accessible information about which positions are paid, they wrote, FLI staffers — or those from other underrepresented backgrounds — may be more likely to apply for leadership positions. A few staffers said that they were unaware that desk editor positions and other leadership roles receive stipends, and further contended that this knowledge would have changed their decision about whether to apply to a leadership position.

Finally, respondents suggested increased attention toward fostering more intellectual diversity within the staff, as well as helping staffers balance maintaining their mental health and working at The Daily.  

These quantitative and qualitative responses will help our team plan next steps. Partnering with campus community group leaders, we will perform more targeted outreach during our fall recruitment period. Drawing on feedback that The Daily can be intimidating to join, we highly encourage Indigenous, Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+, disabled and FLI students, in particular, to apply if they have any interest.

We also hope to expand the Opportunity Fellowship, a need-based $1,500-per-volume stipend for staffers who want to spend more time at the paper but may face financial obstacles to doing so. Our goal is to be able to offer financial aid for all staffers who require it.

We’re also excited that The Daily will be offering its inaugural Summer Journalism Institute, a two-week internship program for incoming frosh from backgrounds underrepresented in journalism. For more information about the program, click here. For more information on how to join The Daily, click here. We accept all eligible applicants — no prior experience necessary.

Malaysia Atwater '23 is a senior staff writer and former Vol. 260/261 managing editor in the News section. She is a political science major from Centennial, Colorado, and she enjoys dancing and re-watching Grey's Anatomy in her free time. Contact her at matwater 'at' stanforddaily.com.Jared Klegar ’24 was opinions managing editor in Vol. 263 and magazine editor in Vol. 262. An English major, dangling modifiers are among his biggest pet peeves. Contact him at jklegar 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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