Students of Color Coalition: A History of Social Progress and Achievement

March 5, 2010

Over the years, the Students of Color Coalition (SOCC) has been able to successfully advocate on behalf of individual candidates and campus advocacy issues important to Stanford’s communities of color. These issues, unlike vague promises of campus betterment, are based on the principles at the heart of the SOCC doctrine: social justice, equal opportunity, and tolerance.

It is thus important to note that SOCC is not an organization based on racial or ethnic exclusivity. We are but a continuation of a long tradition of students working hard to uphold the values upon which this university was founded. SOCC is proof that student leaders, together with their communities, can ensure that the values officially espoused by Stanford are demonstrated in the university’s policies and reflected in our everyday lives.

Our history as a progressive coalition committed to improving various aspects of student life demonstrates this. The first incarnation of SOCC emerged in 1987 as the Rainbow Coalition. This pioneer organization issued the Rainbow Agenda, a set of demands that included increased recruitment of students and faculty of color, improved curriculum and ethnic studies, a permanent ban of grapes, and a renewed commitment to discourage Indian mascot fanatics.

In 1994, the Rainbow Coalition was renamed the Student of Color Coalition. That year, it called for the creation of a Chicano/a Studies academic department and the establishment of a community center in East Palo Alto. At that time, campus cynics deemed some of these demands as either unattainable or unnecessary. They were not, in fact. Today, Stanford enjoys some of the most impressive undergraduate diversity statistics nationwide. Among its academic programs, it counts Chicano/a Studies, Asian American Studies, and the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, all established as a result of student mobilization. Thankfully, we have also abandoned the offensive, former Indian mascot, a symbol of the university’s commitment to tolerance.

Just as it has occurred on the national political stage, our issues have evolved with the times. Faculty and Graduate Student Diversity remains an integral part the SOCC agenda. Stanford has indeed improved with regards to certain academic areas. However, the faculty selection process remains extremely decentralized and the university has continually refused to adopt a timeline of binding commitments. The Acts of Intolerance Protocol has not been adequately implemented at a university-wide level. Outreach about Acts of Intolerance is minimal and embarrassingly poor. With the passing of Thom Massey, students of color, LGBT students, and women must be reassured that they are being adequately defended.

The protection of community centers is critical, as was shown by the Mental Health and Wellbeing Task Force Report. Our community centers are integral to our experience at Stanford, and their priceless contributions must be properly acknowledged by the administration. ASSU transparency and accountability is sorely needed. Once our elected representatives take office, most students feel unable or unmotivated to ask what these students are undertaking. If candidates make promises on the campaign trail, no avenue is provided to ensure that they are following through. Workers’ rights, whether on campus or in the sweatshops producing Stanford apparel, must be defended. Finally, public and community service organizations, and the students heading them, need more financial and logistical support than what is currently being provided by either the ASSU or other campus bodies. SOCC has always promoted initiatives to increase Stanford presence in our surrounding community, particularly in East Palo Alto.

To ensure that we tap into all of Stanford’s communities, SOCC endorsement applicants undergo a transparent and open selection process. We do not only endorse students of color. Instead, we strive to select students with a proven track record of public service, a deep commitment to and understanding of SOCC issues, and the potential to capably do the job. Our candidates of course come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. More importantly, they have their own individual ambitions for senate that extend beyond SOCC’s hallmark issues. Collectively, their interests range from sustainability and student housing to mental health, relationship abuse, and LGBT rights.

We know that there are numerous candidates who care about SOCC issues. However, our `endorsees represent those individuals who have demonstrated the greatest commitment, knowledge, and passion about these issues. They also reflect the diverse interests of the undergraduate body. What SOCC candidates do share is a progressive ideology and agenda with respect to specific issues. Our history, our legislative and executive track record, as well as the countless student leaders that we have produced over the years, are a testament to SOCC’s presence and to the support we have received from the student body.

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