By Bryce Tuttle
At the end of last year, Diontrey Thompson (no longer at Stanford) and Vice Provost Susie Brubaker-Cole made a commitment. They promised that groups at Stanford who have asked for a community center would get the chance to apply for one in a fair, open and transparent process. Last winter, Brubaker-Cole convened a committee, led by Thompson and comprised of students, faculty and staff, to design this process.
The design process was a monumental task — it would create a process that would rule on the validity of a group’s claim and whether their need was enough to merit a space. By the end of last academic year, Thompson, Brubaker-Cole and the committee had completed their work and had finalized a framework that seemed fair, balanced, and equitable.
Brubaker-Cole and Thompson consulted many student activists during this process. Town halls and open office hours were held. Thompson made himself available to the community for feedback and input. In many ways, this was Stanford administration decision-making at its finest.
As someone who had been fighting for a community center for the students with disabilities at Stanford since my freshman year, for a few months I allowed myself to hope. Maybe we would finally get a fair shot.
The disability community at Stanford has been fighting for a community center for approximately 30 years, and have been given promise after promise by the University. Until now, all of those promises have been broken. Generations of student activists have tried and failed to convince Stanford to recognize disability not just as an impairment, but as an identity that merits a space for community building, organizing and cultural enrichment.
Last year, I felt like we might finally get what we had been asking for. We had the student body behind us, the administration was listening, and more students than ever before felt comfortable taking pride in their disability identity.
Then, a familiar pattern set in.
“The process should be open in September.”
“Actually, the applications should open in October.”
“Actually, we need to wait for a new associate vice provost, so the applications will be open in January.”
“The new associate vice provost is still getting up to speed, so we should open applications in March.”
Delay, after delay, after delay.
This is not a new story. Ask any former student activist — they will tell you of a time that the administration waited them out, waited for them to leave Stanford.
Next year, almost every student who gave feedback and worked on this process will have graduated. Brubaker-Cole and the Student Affairs office will be able to quietly shelve the community center process without even an announcement. Until then, they just need to keep telling people like me, “Oh, the process will start next month — we just need to get our house in order.”
I write this op-ed because I cannot lose hope, because I cannot bear to believe that all the effort my friends and my community invested over the decades will go to waste.
Stanford must be forced to keep its word. It almost always has to be shamed, protested or sued to keep its promises.
But, then again, maybe this time it will be different.
— Bryce Tuttle ’20, former co-director of Disability Advocacy (2017-2019), ASSU Executive Cabinet
Contact Bryce Tuttle at btuttle ‘at’ stanford.edu.