Letter from President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy to students, faculty and staff announcing launch of OpenXChange initiative

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

For many in our community, the last academic year was difficult as pressing issues such as sexual assault, racial inequity and divestment demanded attention. While some on campus urged the university and fellow community members to take a more active role, others hoped the dissension would "just go away." Tensions rose as people on differing sides of issues felt that others simply weren't listening or weren't taking the actions they thought appropriate. Some felt disrespected, while others felt silenced.

The university thrives on intellectual debate, on the open exchange of ideas in the service of learning and the creation of new knowledge. Indeed, a university changes the world primarily through the knowledge it discovers and the future citizens it educates. By sharing those discoveries and preparing students for leadership, Stanford hopes to make our community, the nation and the world better.

With this in mind, we hope you will partner with us as we launch OpenXChange, a new community-wide – and community-driven – year-long initiative. Its goal is to strengthen the Stanford community through purposeful engagement. This initiative underscores Stanford's commitment to meaningful interchange and thoughtful listening, as well as mutual respect even around areas of intense disagreement.

Our freedom and excellence as a university depends on the open exchange of ideas. We invite your participation and collaboration in shaping OpenXChange – whether coordinating with your class, developing a workshop in your residence, creating a discussion group, engaging in artistic expression or in numerous other ways that will be available in the coming weeks and months.

Throughout the year, OpenXChange will introduce and promote community conversations on issues of global and national concern as well as those closer to home. Each quarter, through special guest speakers and major panel discussions, OpenXChange will spotlight urgent questions and themes that affect us all. The topics will be explored further in related projects, courses and other activities. The theme for the fall will be "Stanford and the World," and it will focus on challenges that face us as global citizens. Winter quarter's theme will be "Stanford and the Nation"; it will consider issues of national import such as the criminal justice system. In the spring, "Stanford and Our Community" will examine the causes and effects of social inequality within our own community and the larger world.

Clearly, there are many issues of importance to our community beyond these broad topics. OpenXChange will provide discussion opportunities for a wide array of concerns through additional events, breakout sessions, courses, grants, workshops and exhibits – many planned and led by students and faculty. Although each quarter will have a focus – on the world, nation or community – we will also consider how local and global issues intersect. All of the OpenXChange events should enable us to think, investigate and engage together as an intellectual community that appreciates and learns from our differences.

There will be more information about Stanford's OpenXChange on the website openxchange.stanford.edu at the start of the fall quarter. In the meantime, if you have a question about the initiative or about how to get involved, please email openxchange@stanford.edu.

As always, we welcome hearing from you. Please send your comments, suggestions or questions to us at president@stanford.edu, provost@stanford.edu, or to Harry J. Elam Jr., vice provost for undergraduate education, at vpue@stanford.edu.


John L. Hennessy

John Etchemendy