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Stanford Stories From the Archives


In the 21st century, Stanford is among the most preeminent universities in the world. As it has grown in prominence, students have embraced creativity as part of their curriculum and—like their predecessors—voiced concerns over issues of violence and racial and economic justice.

Following the multidisciplinary Stanford Arts Initiative in 2006, more than 100 student groups have formed to foster artistic expression. The Institute for Diversity in the Arts (founded in 2000), nurtures innovation and creativity in the performing arts and supports long-established groups such as Ballet Folklorico de Stanford (1972) and Stanford Taiko (1992).

In the aftermath of the August 9, 2014 fatal police shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Stanford students mobilized #SiliconShutdown to honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and act in support of the #BlackLivesMatter and #ReclaimMLK campaigns. “We chose to inconvenience the weekend commute because the status quo is deadly to the black and brown peoples of this country . . . [we are] forcefully reminding Silicon Valley that, decades after Martin Luther King, black lives, and brown lives, and the lives of all oppressed people, still matter.” said participant Maria Diaz ’17.

After years of perceived inaction by the university, Fossil Free Stanford arose to take direct action to combat climate change. Although the university has divested from coal, its continued investment in oil and gas has left many dismayed, and Fossil Free Stanford and other student groups continue to work for change.

StandWithLeah, in which sexual assault survivor Leah Francis brought critical attention to the university’s handling of her case (2014), and the Brock Turner sexual assault case (2015) shone a spotlight on a decades old issue of rape and rape culture on college campuses. Stanford students responded on social media, held rallies, and carried signs during Commencement to call attention to the issue.


The 9/11 Reflection Project Email, 2002

A year after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, undergraduate Erika Soto captured fellow students’ experiences in a research project for International Relations 193 (Winter 2002). She asked participants to reflect upon where they were, their initial reactions, their thoughts on the U.S. response, and how their perspective had changed over time.


9/11 reflection project email (2002)


9/11 Memorial (2001-09-14) [part 1] [part 2] [part 3]


Stanford ReMix project, March 16, 2007

The Stanford ReMix project was a collaboration between dancer/choreographer/performer/ teacher Aleta Hayes and Stanford students to create and perform a montage of music, monologue, and movement examining student aspirations in the low-income, racially-mixed neighborhood of East Palo Alto. In 2010, Hayes founded The Chocolate Heads, a group of student dancers, musicians, and spoken-word artists who come together to investigate modern concerns through art and performance.


Hoodies and Hijabs Stand Together, April 7, 2012

The Muslim Student Awareness Network (MSAN) co-sponsored this action along with several other student groups. MSAN’s purpose is to foster cross-cultural dialogue and promote awareness of the Islamic faith and culture to the entire Stanford community. The most recently-established of Stanford’s student resource centers, The Markaz Resource Center was founded in 2013 for the stated purpose of providing “opportunities for all Stanford students to better engage with and learn from the complex and varied cultural, political and social dimensions of Muslim identities and experiences.”


Stanford Taiko performs a drumming blessing, Tatsumaki by Hiroshi Tanaka, June 16, 2012

One of the first collegiate taiko groups to form in North America, Stanford Taiko was founded in the winter of 1992 by students Ann Ishimaru and Valerie Mih as a way to share taiko with the university community. As the founding organization of the Intercollegiate Taiko Invitational, Stanford Taiko has been instrumental in the development of collegiate taiko throughout the United States, as well as the larger North American taiko community through performing at the Taiko Jam of the North American Taiko Conference. Since 2000, the group has been active in the international scene through tours and exchange concerts in countries such as Japan, China, and Thailand.


Nerd Nation, 2012

The phrase “Nerd Nation” can be traced back to Stanford Women’s Basketball team members and sisters Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, who made a video in 2012 called Nerd City Kids that featured Stanford athletes and first aired on the Cardinal Channel. The phrase gained national popularity at the 2013 football game against Oregon, during which Nerd Nation t-shirts and glasses were distributed and worn by fans. Bill and Melinda Gates donned Nerd Nation glasses for their commencement speech in 2014.


We A.R.E. (Athletes Reaching Equality) Pride Brochure, January 29-30, 2014

We A.R.E. (Athletes Reaching Equality) Pride was an event featuring art displays and a panel discussion on LGBT inclusion among athletes. Organized by members of the Stanford and UC-Berkeley women’s basketball teams, Toni Kokenis ’14 and Mikayla Lyles respectively, the event was part of a week-long initiative that sought to promote safe and supportive communities for LGBT athletes, as well as to raise awareness of LGBT issues in sports.


Stanford students shut down the San Mateo Bridge, January 19, 2015

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 2015, following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, a group of close to 100 Stanford students and community members took action to block the San Mateo Bridge over SF Bay in support of the Ferguson Action National Demands for change, including the demilitarization of local law enforcement and the repurposing of funds to support community-based alternatives to incarceration. Sixty-eight were arrested.


Stanford Powwow, May 15, 2015

Founded in 1971, the Stanford Powwow is the nation’s largest student-run Powwow.


Ballet Folklorico de Stanford, September 15, 2015

Seniors Melissa Diaz and Steven Gastelum of Ballet Folklorico de Stanford perform for freshmen and their parents at the Chicano/Latino New Student Welcome at Old Union.


Fossil Free Stanford sit-in, November 16, 2015

Concurrent with a rally in White Plaza, more than 100 Stanford students sat in outside President John Hennessy’s office to demand Stanford’s full divestment from the fossil fuel industry. On April 25, 2016, the Board of Trustees announced a partial divestment plan.


Stanford Commencement, June 16, 2016

Before commencement, Stanford students paint and distribute signs against sexual violence to march with during Wacky Walk. Their messages include "Rape is Rape"; "Stanford protests rapists"; "Rape culture has deep roots"; "125 years of rape culture"; "To girls everywhere I am with you"; and "Stand together."