This post was comprised in all its glory by the wonderful Sebastian Cardenas. Bio below!
Last Thursday, Stanford’s Board of Trustees named Marc Tessier-Lavigne as the university’s 11th president. Tessier-Lavigne is an outstanding individual and is a great man for the job, no doubt. That day as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, I found various posts criticizing the Presidential Search Committee for once again electing a white male for the job, something that has remained constant since the university was founded 125 years ago.
However, even though this statistic is irrefutable I believe that the question of whether or not there exists discrimination amongst the committee is very complex and that we, as students, cannot be tempted to take a side based off of just one statistic. Digging deeper into this question, we can achieve a deeper understanding of what is actually going on as well as potential solutions to the problem.
Currently, 38% of the United States population is part of an ethnic minority and roughly 50% of the population is female. With this one would say that if Stanford’s presidential search committee were “fair” at least 5 of the last 11 presidents should have been women and 4 should have been of an ethnic minority.
I decided to create a simple outline of the basic requirements someone should have to be president of one of the most important educational-research institutions in the world, Stanford University.
- A PhD and a worldwide reputation within an academic field.
- Have significant passion and experience in education.
- A previous significant leadership experience (CEO of some company, president of a distinguished organization, etc).
Now, when we look at the subset of people with the characteristics mentioned above, I assure you that way less than 38% of them are a minority and less than 50% are women. This is because as minorities and women have historically faced such immense discrimination to the point that we have made it very hard for these populations to enter the pool of the population with the three characteristics mentioned above. If we assume that the average age of the people in the main pool to be Stanford’s president is 50, we must also see that the pool is a representation of the discrimination that occurred 50 years ago. (As a reference, MLK was arrested in 1964 for entering an ‘all white restaurant’.) These statistics of inequality are evidence of the discrimination in our society, not the discrimination amongst the Presidential Search Committee, though this too may still exist.
I believe that as a society we have become less discriminating over the past 50 years but that we still have a long way to go. We have to keep on working hard towards equality so that when Stanford is selecting a pool of applicants for its next president 50 years from now, there is a more balanced representation of ethnicities/gender in that pool and so that ultimately there is an accurate representation of the US general population in the Stanford presidency.
It is important to bear in mind that Stanford should not be considered a non-discriminating institution, especially when we look at the issue by observing the makeup of tenured faculty. The backgrounds of those who constitute Stanford’ faculty ought to be a serious concern, as tenure is a ‘filter’ into someone attaining one of the three characteristics mentioned above.
Finally, as a student at Stanford I am conscious of the lack of support minorities feel from the administration and can see how much better a lot of people at Stanford would feel if they had a leader that could empathize with them. (I myself am of the Latino minority.)
I have a lot more to say about this (even from philosophical and statistical viewpoints) so feel free to email me at scardena [at] stanford [dot] edu if you would like to discuss this further.
I hope this brief read made you think a little deeper and sparked some insight about the complex discrimination problem we all face.
By Sebastian Cardenas
Do you think Stanford made a good choice for its newest president? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
Sebastian is a sophomore at Stanford from Medellín, Colombia. He and I lived together in Larkin last year, where we bonded over our mutual love for Real Madrid and our un-mutual love for Crocs. (He adores them, and bought me a pair when I told him I thought they were awful.) Now, we meet up in Sigma Nu for lunch every so often
to engage in mutual conversation so that I use him to practicar mi español.
I love getting perspectives other than my own on the blog, so when Sebastian asked if he could share his thoughts on Stanford’s new president, it was a big fat “claro” from me. 🙂 Oh, and even though he asked me to edit it for him (see email subject line below), I left it mostly in his words to keep everything authentic. (No te preocupes, mi amor– tu ingles es perfecto.)
¡Gracias a ti, Sebas, por tu contribución al blog! – Cath