Lauren Chircus 0

GSC: Revoke funding for Anscombe Society Conference

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On Wednesday, the Stanford Graduate Student Council voted in favor of funding an anti-LGBTQ rights event to be held on our campus; specifically, a weekend-long conference organized by the Stanford Anscombe Society (SAS). Among other things, the conference aims to provide training on how to more effectively communicate and promote the cause against marriage equality. The speakers at this event have a very long history of advocating against LGBTQ rights. You can find the GSC meeting minutes at:

The SBSA and BioAIMS Executive Boards responded to the GSC with the following:

Dear Graduate Student Council,

The Stanford Biosciences Student Association (SBSA) and the Biomedical Association for the Interest of Minority Students (BioAIMS) would like to express our deep disapproval of your decision to fund the Stanford Anscombe Society (SAS) conference. We urge you to reverse this decision.

SBSA and BioAIMS represent all students in the Biosciences (~800 graduate students). SBSA, BioAIMS, and the Biosciences community take pride in our open, supportive, and collaborative environment, and we believe that diversity and respect are cornerstones of a healthy community as well as scientific success. Indeed, during recruitment events over the last five days we showcased Stanford's commitment to diversity to over 350 prospective Stanford graduate students.

Diversity means welcoming students of all backgrounds and identities by supporting the expression of those identities. We are saddened to hear that the representative body of all graduate students university-wide voted to fund an event that promotes discriminatory policies. The GSC serves "the interests of Stanford graduate students," as your tagline states. It is in the interests of the graduate students to create a safe and welcoming community for students of all identities such that students can focus on learning and developing in their fields without concern.

We vehemently disagree with monetarily supporting an organized effort to impose heteronormative values on others.SAS has the right to free speech, but that does not mean they have the right to graduate student money.There is a difference between not discriminating against a group with differing opinions and tacitly condoning their activities through monetary support. For this particular event, an SAS representative stated “it is important for people to hear about points which are not liked" (GSC meeting minutes). As scientists we agree and value debate based on reason and evidence; however, the SAS conference as described instead will teach attendees to veil disrespectful language and "promote the values of marriage, family, and sexual integrity" (event website).While we agree on the importance of respectful communication – the basis of this conference according to SAS – this agenda intrinsically discriminates, can in no way be respectful, and is inherently exclusive. This also goes against GSC policy:

"Events and activities involving politically charged issues should focus on the education of the general community regarding the history and relevance of the issue. The GSC will not fund events or activities that have any appearance or tone of exclusivity. The GSC will not fund events or activities that create an environment where a given segment of the graduate student population are made to feel unwelcome at the event due to religious, political, or other conviction."

The SAS conference described is a political training ground in which large segments of the Stanford graduate student population will feel unwelcome.

Biosciences students are required to contribute to the GSC budget via the student activities fee, and they expect these funds to go towards creating a healthy graduate student community. Many of our students have expressed displeasure in person and over our listserves with the decision to fund the SAS conference. Using graduate student money for events that deteriorate respect and offend students actively degrades the community. In the Biosciences as well as Stanford as a whole, a large number of students identify as LGBTQA, feminist, sex-positive, polyamorous, or other non-traditional lifestyles. Events that promote the heteronormative rendition of family as one man and one woman can further marginalize individuals and groups with non-traditional lifestyles and identities who already may feel inhibited.

In the interests of Stanford graduate students and maintaining a healthy graduate community on campus, we urge you to revoke funding for the SAS conference.

SBSA and BioAIMS Executive Boards
Lauren Chircus, SBSA President
Brenda Torres, BioAIMS President
Julie Bianchini, SBSA Vice President
Blair Benham-Pyle, SBSA Financial Officer
Alejandra Guzman, SBSA Executive Consultant and SBSA-BioAIMS Liaison

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