Congratulations to the Stanford and the Asian American Activities Center (A3C) on hiring a third staff member

The A3C provides a vital sense of family and community for Asian American and Pacific Islander students at Stanford. We welcome the long-awaited appointment of an additional assistant director, Latana Thaviseth, who will enable the Center to continue its critical mission of serving students.

We applaud the Stanford administration for responding to input from students, alumni, and A3C staff on this matter. Budgeting resources to hire a third A3C staff member shows the University recognizes the value of our Community Centers.

As representatives of Stanford’s Asian American and Pacific Islander alumni community, SAPAAC remains interested in the well-being of students. We hope the new staff position will be made permanent, so that the A3C can continue serving Stanford students for generations to come.

Sincerely,
Board of the Stanford Asian Pacific American Alumni Club (SAPAAC)

Alumni Letter to Stanford Administration on Responses to Sexual Assault

Not in our name: don’t “protect the Stanford brand” at the cost of human beings

 

As a community of Stanford alumni with a profound sense of commitment to our alma mater, we are deeply shaken by the latest allegations of sexual assault and abuse of power, where graduate students were left vulnerable to powerful faculty. We are shocked by the culture of impunity and normalization that allowed these crimes to occur unchecked.

The allegations appear to be part of a distressing pattern of institutional inertia: Stanford’s disappointing handling of sexual assault and sexual harassment claims by students and faculty, bureaucratic hush-ups during the Brock Turner rape case, and other actions that have hindered advocates for the victims of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Rather than launching into another iteration of crisis management and brand protection, could the university administration simply admit a problem exists and engage in deep personal, community and institutional reflection? Why do we treat survivors in this way? What incentive structures give rise to this treatment and could this system be reformed? Ultimately, what kind of culture do we wish to cultivate at Stanford? The courage of such an open approach would be far more inspirational to students and alumni than trying to sweep it under the rug, and could spark social impact beyond our campus borders.

As an example of a way forward, the Stanford Daily and the national press recently reported about Dr. Seo-Young Chu, at one time a Stanford graduate student, who was allegedly raped by a faculty member. Stanford could support redress for Dr. Chu by joining in the public calls for ASECS, a scholarly organization that had honored the alleged perpetrator until she spoke up, to “acknowledge the reason for rescinding his name from the award” and to “apologize for...violence enacted, however unwittingly, in naming this award.”

However, the issues go beyond any single case and point to a more systemic problem of power imbalances that enable abuse. In developing the university’s plans for preventing and responding to harassment, assault, and other violations of trust, and combating toxic masculinity in academia, we also encourage Stanford to seek broader and more meaningful participation by those who are most vulnerable: students.

In service of greater transparency, university leaders could better explain the conditions under which faculty who are accused or found to have committed sexual assault return to teaching, or are invited to campus to teach in the first place. To regain trust, it would also be helpful for the university to enumerate what safeguards have been implemented; avoid penalizing survivors or their advocates; and adopt clearer communication that smacks less of corporate obfuscation. Perhaps graduate student orientation could even explicitly address these issues and highlight feasible recourse for students, given an existing power structure that has not yet evolved.

If an oftentimes vapid Hollywood can express its horror at sexual assault and begin to examine the depravity of the industry’s embedded misogyny, could the Stanford English Department, or School of Humanities & Sciences, or the larger Stanford community, not do the same? Given the University’s claims to be exceptionallyinnovative,” full of the “brightest minds,” and committed to “creating cultured and useful citizens in the service of humanity” could the administration find an equally innovative approach and stand out as a leader in the country when confronted by ethical challenges? Is it possible for our institution to respond with greater humanity, and to avoid resorting to callous corporate strategies that undercut the victims and obscure the issue?

After all, we didn’t graduate from a corporation—we joined a Stanford family. We see current students as our brothers and sisters. That is why as alumni, we speak out today. Stanford is not simply its brand or its reputation. It is most of all constituted by its people: students, staff, faculty, and alumni—living, working, learning and thriving together, generation after generation.

Organizational incentives gone awry have resulted in the university deflecting responsibility, silencing victims, and downplaying problems. Instead of tackling ethical challenges head on, issues are minimized or swept under the rug, all in the name of “protecting the brand.” We expect far more than anodyne corporate-speak from Stanford.

We recognize that managing a university is a complex, difficult task. Administrators bear many responsibilities, and must balance the interests of numerous stakeholders and donors. Therefore, we feel it imperative to make clear the interests of a number of us in the alumni community.

Let us be unequivocal: as alumni, we wish to prioritize our fellow Stanford family members. We care about their lives, their physical and mental health, their academic flourishing, their basic human rights. Their well-being is far more important, and far more precious, than the contrived notion of a “corporate brand.” We would never sacrifice our brothers or sisters simply to protect a brand.

We urge the University to do better: to be more transparent, to show urgency rather than annoyance, and to lead with moral clarity. Silence is complicity. We also ask Stanford to treat members of our community as human beings, not as cases to be managed. Addressing each instance of violence and harm with appropriate concern for people would better demonstrate Stanford’s values.

We urge the University to begin a period of reflection, leading to institutional change at the campus and departmental level, so that those in positions of power will treat all members of the Stanford community as human beings—persons worthy of care and respect.

We love Stanford, and in our hearts, we know it is better than this. The University has tackled some of the world’s great challenges. We hope that it will also take on this important work at home.

With love, concern and gratitude,

Solina Kwan '92
SAPAAC Board Member

Justin Lam '13
SAPAAC Board Member

Brian Cheu '85
SAPAAC Board Member

Rachel Cao '15
SAPAAC Board Member

Linda Tran '06
SAPAAC Board Member & President, Emeritus

Kim Truong '10

Benjamin Chang MS '90

Keiko Suda '97

Kevin Hsu '08, MS '11
SAPAAC Board Member

Van Anh Tran '13
SAPAAC Board Member

Dan Kojiro '74
SAPAAC Board Member

Takeo Rivera 08, MA '09
SAPAAC Board Member, Emeritus

Julie Yumi Hatta '78
SAPAAC Board Member, Emeritus

Laura Yuen '15, MS '16

Mo-Yun Lei '95, MA '96

Madeleine Han '17

You are invited to sign here to express your support for this statement. Your signature will be added to the collective. We welcome alumni from any graduating year and of any Stanford affiliation or department.

Kristine Tom '13, MS '15

Carlos Gomez '15

Irene Hsu ‘17

Carmel Yuen ‘85

Vanuyen Pham ‘18

Akin Salawu ’96

Kris Carpenter Negulescu ’92, MA’94

Jeanine Becker JD ’99

Maria Breaux ’91

Amy Aniobi ’06

Kerry Stivaletti ’92

Lucila Ek ’92

Cynthia Castro Sweet ’92

Navin Kadaba '08

Hyemin Han PhD ‘16

Teresa Hofer  '08 

Alison Buchsbaum ‘15

Emily Cheng

Kim Huynh ’14

Miki Nguyen ’04

Angela Sy ’16 M.S. ’17

Jane Huang ’09

Catherine Zaw ’15

Stephanie Krapf ’92

Jane Lin ’92, ’93

Ellen Schwerin ’92

You are invited to sign here  to express your support for this statement. Your signature will be added to the collective. We welcome alumni from any graduating year and of any Stanford affiliation or department.

Anne Hartridge ’92

Kam Brecher ’96

Becca Bracy Knight ’93

Michelle Cave ’91, MA ’92, MBA ’03

Brinton Clark ’92

Yelena Furman ’92

Ellen Posman ’92

Amy Taylor ’98

Katrina Matheson ’01

Karina Bahrin ’92

Earth Cervantes-Castillo ’94

David Whelan ’92

Lisa Grove ’92

Jeff Blumberg ’91

Miguel Ascencios ’91

Leslie Ann Roldan ’92

Mary Jo Chase ’92

Roberto Prieto ’92

Jennifer Derwingson ’92

Sarah Bernstein Jones ’92

Stefanie Huie ’94

Larissa Vidal

John Bartol ’92

Karen Kramer ’92, JD ’95

Rosaur Sandoval ’02

Martha Brockenbrough ’92

Heather Orosco ’92

Julie Fneker Lindsey ’92

Valerie Mih ’92

Emi Macuaga ’95

Kevin Smith ’92

Kasandra Vitacca Mitchell ’92, MA ‘93


You are invited to sign here to express your support for this statement. Your signature will be added to the collective. We welcome alumni from any graduating year and of any Stanford affiliation or department.

Audrey Ho '15, MS '17

Michaela Sanchez-Wallace '92

Elizabeth Desmond '91

Elisabeth Osgood-Campbell '92

Roxana Maldonado '92

Yin Yin Ou '12

Sunita Nasta '91

Pete Hoyes '92

Jason Gische '92

Libby Feil '91

Shilla Nassi '91

John Chang '93

__________

Interested in having a dialogue about this issue? Write to us at sapaac.talk@gmail.com

Every Courageous Act: Reflecting on Japanese American Internment

In this issue of Asian American Issues, we look back at Order 9066, which U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt signed, ordering the detention of hundreds of thousands of American citizens, based solely on their race and ancestry. Dr. Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, a psychologist and teacher, at Stanford, reflects on how we can remember these difficult historical events.


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We all face situations that are beyond our control. One such moment occurred 75 years ago, on February 19, 1942, when President Roosevelt signed an executive order for the mass incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans. This historical moment is particularly remembered this year because of the recent executive order that banned people from certain countries from entering the United States. One way to remember the lessons of history of this injustice based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership,” is to reflect on how people responded at that time.

Elders used the Japanese expression, shikata ga nai, which means “there is no way to act.” But the younger generation were frustrated and angered by this response. They felt it was passive resignation and wondered how they could just give up rather than do something. For elders shikata ga nai was a way of coping with the things in life that cannot be changed; a way of accepting our vulnerability. They believed that acceptance frees us from the chains of victimization, allowing us to claim the agency to move on. Shikata ga nai was a way for them to feel new energy that they directed into creative and productive activities, living with appreciation and gratitude rather than bitterness and regret.

Recognizing and acknowledging their situation, they discovered new possibilities and freedoms within the limits of the immediate context in which they found themselves. By owning and respecting their vulnerability they could direct energy to growing and to nurturing lovely flower and vegetable gardens, writing powerful poetry, and creating exquisite works of art. They knew that every day was a gift of life.

The elders decided that they could not fight the government and the best they could do was accept the incarceration and put positive energy into making the most of the situation. Many young men responded by laying their lives on the line for their country and for their community. Others resisted and protested injustice by refusing to fight for their country. Each way of responding was courageous and based in each person’s sense on who they were and what they were called to do, for their families, for their community, and for their country. 

The challenge of shikata ga nai is to determine what cannot be changed and what can be changed. What does a person have to accept? How much ability to change a situation through one’s actions, does a person have? And how far is one willing to go, how much is one willing to sacrifice, to attempt to change things? Each person has to decide how to answer these questions. If we are mindful in these moments wisdom may emerge to guide our actions.

Responding to the hardships we face calls for courage. And every courageous act of reflection, action, resistance, and expression that springs from the question: “What does life want from me?” nourishes the power of the human spirit so that it may thrive even through the most difficult situations.

Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu is a psychologist and lecturer in Health and Human Performance and Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University. Read more of his work at https://www.murphyshigematsu.com