Stanford GSB Investigates Racial Slurs Written Outside 2 Student Dorm Rooms

Students gather for the rally in support of Black GSB students on February 25. Courtesy photo

DID THE GSB’s ADMINISTRATION RESPOND TOO SLOWLY?

According to the emails forwarded to Poets&Quants, some students felt the school was slow to acknowledge the incident.

“Students are deeply shaken by this incident: not only does it mark the desecration of their home, but also a breach of our culture of trust, care and decency with which the GSB prides itself. Adding to these feelings of fear, outrage and sadness has been the surprising lack of acknowledgement from the GSB itself,” wrote Drake Pooley, Emily Rogers, Joy Shen, and Allison Cowie co-presidents of the MBA Student Association, in a February 24 email to faculty.

“Students are making difficult choices to attend class and maintain ‘business as usual’ while their safety and identities are under threat.”

Later that same day, associate deans Oyer and Hayes, sent an email to students to update them on the investigation. According to that email:

  • The incident is under investigation by Stanford’s Department of Public Safety (DPS).
  • Stanford GSB increased on-site security to patrol all floors of the residence halls and expand the number of security personnel in the evenings and overnight shifts.
  • Deans Levin met with students from the BBSA to discuss actionable steps to move forward.

The email also listed a variety of support services available to students, as well as gave students a tip line number for the first time.

“First and foremost, we want to be clear that a racial slur written on the personal white boards of students violates the values of the school. We are disgusted by this senseless act–whoever perpetrated this is not a valued member of our community,” Hayes and Oyer wrote.

‘I WAS JUST PERSONALLY ENRAGED’

An MBA student, who spoke to Poets&Quants on background because she didn’t want to speak on behalf of her Black classmates, believes GSB’s response so far has been woefully inadequate.

“There was this visceral feeling that this was someone in our community–in a space that is behind security (card) swipes–observing people, knowing who’s behind which doors, and targeting people,” the student tells P&Q. “The next morning, the dean emailed (students), and I was just personally enraged. I thought it was a totally inadequate response.”

The student says the dean’s first email to students minimized the events, failed to make clear what had actually happened, didn’t make an unequivocal commitment to a full investigation and to identify perpetrator(s), and didn’t lay out any consequences of what they might face. While other emails were sent in subsequent days from other admin officials, students at large didn’t hear from the dean again until his follow-up email on March 2.

In the rally on February 25, students blacked out Stanford’s Wall of Change with messages of support for the Black community.

She says this is in stark contrast to the dean and admin response to a party that some MBA students hosted in violation of COVID restrictions at the beginning of the pandemic. Then, administrators had an all-hands Zoom call with the entire class admonishing them for breaking COVID protocols and laying out strict consequences for violations. She didn’t feel the email response to the hate incident, which may be considered a crime in California, elicited the same level of urgency.

In the first few days after the incident, it was left to Black students to support classmates who felt unsafe, deal with their own traumas, and connect each other with resources, she tells P&Q. It was students themselves who planned the response rally at the Wall of Change.

Students will continue to put pressure on the administration on two fronts, she tells P&Q: (1) Ensure there is an adequate response to the incident, including a full and vigorous investigation and a clarification on the consequences the perpetrator will face. And (2), ensure an increased focus to the GSB Action Plan for Racial Equity adopted 18 months ago.

“There are conversations with the folks working on this that it is moving too slowly. Any institution takes time to change,” the student says. “But too often, Black or marginalized students are the ones that are having to do the heavy lifting of advocating for change. They are actually doing the work the school should be resourcing to write new case studies, finding practical curriculum changes, and identifying diverse speakers. It seems that the administration is outsourcing this burden to the students.”

WHAT COMES NEXT

Roberston believes there were missed opportunities in the early response by the GSB administrators. For example, there wasn’t an anonymous tip line communicated with students until a couple of days after the incident. He also believes Levin’s first response to students didn’t adequately address the severity of the incident.

“We wanted to see more, specifically around the investigation and making a firm claim that this is a hate crime, and that it was targeted. That is key,” Robertson says.

However, he does believe that the GSB’s response has gotten better through the days that followed as BBSA leadership has been meeting and talking with administrators.

Students write messages at the February 25 rally at Stanford GSB. Courtesy photo

Robertson was alerted to the racial slur on the evening of February 22 via the BBSA’s group chat. At first, he felt angry, but then his thoughts turned to caring for classmates who lived in the residence hall that no longer felt safe there.

“Through the rest of the week, it just hit in a different way. I still don’t fully understand how emotionally it hit so hard later. I think the first day, it kind of shocks you. And then you’re kind of–depressed isn’t the right word—but demotivated, disappointed in general. That takes a toll on morale and mental health,” Robertson says. “There were some classes that I personally could not go to, and part of it was just not being able to show up fully.”

Moving forward, Robertson says the BBSA will continue to work on one of the goals Robertson discussed in this Black History Month feature: Increasing Black representation at GSB. Robertson notes that the GSB student body is 8% black, the U.S. population is 14% Black.

They will also push for a vigorous investigation.

“Obviously we want to find who did this, and we want to make sure our people are safe,” Robertson says. “I have confidence the people who are in charge of the investigation will take the necessary steps. I don’t have confidence that we’ll find someone, because there are no cameras in the residence hallways, unless someone has a tip. If someone does have information, then we believe it will help find who did it. But if no one talks, we’re not going to find anyone.”

NEXT PAGE: Other racial incidents at Stanford University + Dean Levin’s full statement to students from March 2

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