Diversity and Societal Citizenship
May 6, 2015
Over the past few weeks, I have been deeply saddened by the tumultuous events in my former hometown. Although Baltimore has, for now, disappeared from the news, the unrest has raised our collective awareness about the state of social justice in America.
I know how deeply distressing these events, and similar events, have been for many members of our community, particularly people of color. They have affected me as well.
Recent town halls and dean’s lectures on diversity have provided a safe space for students, faculty, and staff to contribute to the national dialogue—to listen and be heard. These conversations have challenged and inspired us, and I applaud all the members of our community who have stood up and pushed us into deeper and, at times, uncomfortable discourse.
As many of you know, my own introduction to racial inequality came when, as a gangly ninth-grader in Little Rock, Arkansas, I was bused to a new school as part of a court-ordered desegregation plan. The disparities between my new, formerly black school and my previous school were stark. And yet, I remember this day as one of real hope. Together, we—black and white students—were embarking upon a journey together towards a more equitable society.
In many ways, we have come a long way since Little Rock, but the recent and tragic loss of black lives reminds us of how far we still have to go. Here at Stanford Medicine we cannot see ourselves as isolated from these tragedies. As a leading academic medical center, we have a responsibility to contribute our voices to the national conversation, to strongly assert our commitment to diversity and inclusion, and to help promote a more just society for all people.
To better equip our students to be agents of change, I established a Task Force on Diversity and Societal Citizenship last January. The task force is Co-Chaired by deans Terrance Mayes and Fernando Mendoza and includes broad representation from the Stanford Medicine community. The leaders of the task force have informed me that the group has met nine times since its formation and is currently drafting a report of its recommendations. The Diversity Cabinet and I look forward to reviewing this report.
As we advocate for a better society—and further equip our students to do so—we must ensure that we as an institution model a diverse and welcoming community. Through proactive programming and increased accountability our campus is now more diverse, and not just in terms of race and gender. We, as an institution and as a society, are made much richer by the talents and contributions of all people.
But we know it’s not enough to merely increase diversity through greater representation. True diversity and inclusion will be felt in the culture and climate of our institution. It will resonate in how open and welcoming we are. It blossoms in the ways we find to bring our extraordinary differences to bear upon the important problems of the world.
Thank you for joining together across Stanford Medicine to support each other during this difficult time and for sharing in our collective commitment to diversity and respect, inclusion and integrity, justice and equality.
Carl and Elizabeth Naumann Dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine
Professor of Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery
Professor of Bioengineering and of Neurobiology, by courtesy