Are white people the only ones who know how to teach? Will allies with power ever make room for representation at Colleges and Universities across the country? Will whiteness always insist on being the center? These are questions that plagued my mind as I matriculated through college and recently took a look at Stanford’s Urban Studies Program. With over forty-three thousand applicants each year and an acceptance rate of 5%, it is evident that Stanford is the cream of the crop. Not only is the university competitive and highly selective, they meet full financial need, without loans, for all students who qualify for financial aid. Stanford is that school: Its name ranges far and wide, and their students are wildly successful. Still, for all the accolades that set Stanford apart from its competition, the university is like most of the predominately white institutions in the country. Just like its cousins, Stanford’s teaching and administrative staff, including those of the Urban Studies program, are majority white and male.
Over 40 years ago, Stanford’s Urban Studies program emerged as a student-initiated effort. Now, in 2017, the program has grown to offer the study of all-things-urban as a major and minor. There are Faculty and Lecturers, Faculty Advisors, three Peer Advisors, and Staff and Leadership which includes one director and four Executive Committee Members. These members are: Michael Kahan, Thomas Hansen, Michael Rosenfeld, Barbara Voss, and Jeff Wachtel. All, by their engagement, are committed to the mission to transform cities and showcase how better cities can positively impact the country.
Based on the fields alumni go into after leaving the program: public policy, community service, urban planning, and education to name a few, it’s clear that those who enter the field of Urban Studies have a sense of why many cities aren’t as well-off as they can be. Within almost every city there is poverty, homelessness, and limited access to resources that are basic human rights and yet, there are too many who do without. In short, these disparities hurt people and the country.
So, why don’t the faculty and staff of Stanford’s Urban Studies program look like the people that the program represents and seeks to serve? Surely Stanford has the resources to hire more scholars of color, women, and gender fluid people. Historically and statistically, these groups of people are the ones who grow up in urban areas and are, in fact, more equipped to understand the challenges of urban areas and how to combat those challenges. So, why aren’t they populating the offices of Stanford’s Urban Studies department?
Why don’t many colleges and universities insist on hiring those who fit requirements of merit and representation of their program? This is not to say that non-black, brown, and heteronormative people can’t teach and teach well but the lack of representation across the country and educational system seems intentional.
(Illustration by 白士 李)