The Minority Community Our Student Leaders Ignore

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They don’t chalk messages in White Plaza or hold signs in protest during Admit Weekend.

They don’t issue demands or try to control ASSU elections.

They receive neither a community center nor outraged Facebook statuses from hundreds of Stanford students.

They are our military-affiliated students. Our heroes. And Stanford’s student leaders ignore them.

Almost all other underrepresented groups have a liaison in the ASSU Executive cabinet, or a well-funded group to advocate for them. The new Executives – Jackson Beard and Amanda Edelman – are recruiting staff to campaign against sexual assault, to assist with mental health, and to design their campus-wide emails. The military-affiliated community receives no such support.

The last few years have proven that the ASSU listens to whoever yells and protests the loudest. We will use the Constitutional right to free speech that our military defends to do the same on our troops’ behalf.

ASSU cabinet liaisons support the student body’s diverse communities by giving them a platform for voicing their perspectives and leading initiatives relevant to the specific community. Liaisons can present concerns from the groups they represent directly to the ASSU Executives and, by extension, the administration.

Military-affiliated students need as strong a voice as possible on campus. ROTC students must grapple with preparing for a military career while juggling other academic commitments. Over 60% of veterans find it hard to adjust to civilian life without support: 30% of them suffer from PTSD, while others struggle with depression and and derogatory comments about the military from fellow students.

A liaison would provide invaluable insight into the needs and depth of the military-affiliated community – an especially valuable perspective, since no current cabinet members, Executives, or Senators have served in our armed forces. Even UC Berkeley recently opened a new Veterans Resource Center to “expand access and support for returning service members to engage the transformative opportunities available through higher education”. The military-affiliated liaison could examine whether a similar move is necessary at Stanford.

A lack of a liaison is gravely concerning – and unsurprising.  

Stanford’s relationship with the military community is rocky, long, and complex. ROTC was expelled from campus in 1973 as a result of backlash from the Vietnam War. The Stanford Daily’s Editor-in-Chief at the time described ROTC as a “whipping boy for anti-war protests [and] an easy target.” The building was burned to the ground in 1968. Meanwhile, the anti-military ASSU President claimed that while the “setting [for military violence] was Vietnam, […] it was in some way universal,” justifying campus violence.

The Faculty Senate only voted to allow ROTC to return to Stanford in 2011. Despite this, Stanford has happily accepted significant Department of Defense funding for important research projects for decades.

Stanford students’ stance on the United States military should not affect the creation of a community liaison. Whether or not students support the military’s actions is irrelevant. No Stanford student, regardless of background, should be excluded from meaningful access to their leaders.

A number of veterans have told the Review that they have been largely kept in the dark about ways in which to gain representation and – even more disturbingly – that no recent attempt has been made to include them in the ASSU. Veterans who have risked their lives to defend our country should not need to push buttons, protest, or pull strings to be represented like every other community on campus. The ASSU Executives should actively seek to represent them.

It is both unfortunate and telling that the Review is the first major Stanford student organization to make the case for this representation. Stanford faculty with military backgrounds, such as Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, are prominent and vocal members of the University’s academic community. But military-affiliated students almost never feature on campus in ways that discuss their military background.

The military is almost always discussed to be criticized – as occurred at a FLIP event last year that implicitly condemned the “disproportionate” number of low-income students who see the military as a pathway to prosperity.

Stanford’s student military-affiliated community should not feel obligated to politicize itself. Yet military-affiliated students currently feel marginalized and voiceless, unable to make themselves heard, and silenced whenever they bring up their military connection. We have done our school and our country a severe disservice in our inaction.

The military-affiliated community occupies a special position between Stanford and the outside world – one which embodies the virtues of public service, dedication, camaraderie, and global awareness that Stanford teaches its students. A first step of granting the military community representation on campus will help the University learn from and forge connections with our under-recognized heroes.

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