Stanford scraps mandatory diversity activity after ‘tokenization,' personal intrusion complaints

After consistent student complaints surrounding the appropriateness of the activity, the university has scrapped the practice and is “exploring alternative programming.”

For years, Stanford University has required incoming freshmen to participate in a popular type of diversity activity in which they are compelled to publicly share personal information and details about their lives.

Stanford University is ceasing the use of a common activity employed by schools to celebrate diversity after students complained that the activity was inappropriate and required students to share too much personal information.

Called “Crossing the Line,” the activity was previously used by the university as “a tool for promoting reflection, dialogue, empathy and authentic engagement” among incoming freshmen, according to The Stanford Daily.

“Crossing the Line” activities are not unique to Stanford and are currently employed by many universities throughout the country, including the University of Southern California, the University of Houston, and Oakland University.

While versions vary, the essence of the activity remains constant. 

Students are presented with a number of statements about “identity.” Examples listed by the previously mentioned universities include statements like “people can see I am a woman,” “I have a learning challenge,”  “I have entered a gay bar” or “I was abused as a child.” Participants are encouraged to acknowledge publicly each statement that reflects their own experience, with the goal being to gain perspective of the different experiences of one’s peers.

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Stanford has included a mandatory Crossing the Line activity in its freshman orientation since the 1980s, but the school has now scrapped the activity due to complaints that it was invasive and compelled students to divulge personal, private information that they may not otherwise share in a public setting.  

The university is looking into other, less invasive activities to include in its freshman orientation.

“In their evaluations of the program, students expressed great concern about being required to disclose some aspects of their identities in a public setting,” Stanford spokeswoman Pat Harris told the Stanford Daily. “We are currently exploring alternative programming and will share more information in the near future.”

“I know the feeling of being ‘on display’ and the tokenization of POC/Womxn/Queer/FLI/ Minority folks that is far too overlooked in what is meant to be a unifying and community-building activity,” student Kobe Hopkins wrote as part of his spring 2019 campaign for a student government position. “As a senator, I will be an advocate for a direct, clear universal change at the conceptual stage of creating identity statements that are more inclusive and thoughtful for student communities.”

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Other concerns about the activity stem from its “binary” nature. 

Students say that because some of the questions are particularly uncomfortable, participants may choose not to speak up even if a statement applies to them, thus marking the activity somewhat pointless.

“First, because of the binary nature of CTL, there is no way of clarifying whether one stays behind the line because one prefers not to share, or simply because the statement does not apply,” student Alp Akis in an article for the Stanford Review. “Second, for those to whom the prompt is relevant, the choice offered is between crossing the line despite fear of exposure, or deciding not to step up and and accepting the guilt of abandoning those who did.”

Campus Reform reached out to Stanford for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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