The Fundamental Standard


At Stanford a single principle, the Fundamental Standard, governs students' behavior:

Students are expected to show both within and without the University such respect for order, morality, personal honor, and the rights of others as is demanded of good citizens. Failure to observe this will be sufficient cause for removal from the University.

Agreeing On Community Standards

As do other democratic communities, residences allow individuals personal freedom as long as they do not infringe on the rights of others. Students living in your house will confront situations where one person's right to do as he or she wishes will conflict with community values or the rights of others. In anticipation of these situations, and before major conflicts arise, your staff should discuss how best to get students thinking about the applications of the Residence Agreement and the Fundamental Standard to your house.

Early in the year, it is important to devote part of a house meeting to discuss how your community will address standards of behavior and academic honesty. RFs (in houses with RFs) and RAs should be involved in this discussion. When talking with students, you probably will want to raise these issues:

Educating others about mutual rights and responsibilities includes bringing to the surface issues of conflict among residents. If a group is unhappy about the amount of house dues being spent on parties, for instance, you can ensure that the matter is raised in a house meeting or other setting. How the issue is handled often will determine its resolution. To the greatest extent possible, different views on an issue should be brought forth. Where strong feelings are present, the reasons for emotional responses should also be discussed.

By bringing issues of conflict to the surface, you can help students find their own resolutions. While avoiding the role of arbiter, you may often be able to structure a discussion, focus attention on the areas of disagreement, identify the values that are in conflict, and guide the group toward its own solutions.

Responses to Incidents of Harassing Speech or Behavior

RFs and RAs have several responsibilities in this area. Residence staff need to assert and maintain students' rights to think whatever they want and to express their opinions, especially unpopular views. Residence staff need to stress the importance of expressing one's views and engaging others in debate in respectful ways. At the same time, staff are expected to discuss the value of peer reaction as a way of addressing inappropriate or offending speech and to empower students to challenge offensive remarks. Most students will modify their speech and behavior when they understand how others experience them.

Most matters, including offensive or harassing speech or behavior, are best handled locally. RAs and RFs can react directly when they hear offensive remarks and can speak privately to students who use language or act in ways that may be experienced as harassing. While stressing that students may think whatever they want and that the staff will uphold students' rights to express their views, RAs and RFs can discuss how the speech or behavior is experienced by others and how the house community is affected.

RAs and RFs may want to say how they are personally affected by the student's use of language. They can explain that derogatory remarks affect both the individuals to whom they refer and all others who hear such speech. Demeaning remarks have a chilling effect on those who are the object of the comments. These students feel as though they are less than full participants in the residential, academic and social communities we work so hard to create at Stanford. The effect of unchecked offensive and harassing speech is to silence its victims. These students feel humiliated and suffer what has been termed psychic injury. The atmosphere of the residence community is affected when defamatory language denies people their full humanity and full participation in the life of the house.

If conversations with the residence staff have no effect and the individual continues to use language or behave in ways which are harassing, the Resident Fellow or Director of the Row (in cases where there is no RF) is expected to convene a group to discuss how the situation should be handled. The group will include the RF, the Residence Dean (RD), and a representative of the central Residential Education office. As a consultant to the staff team, the RD will help the staff develop a plan of response. All incidents which are perceived as harassing need to be reported to the Residence Dean, the Residential Education central office, or the Judicial Affairs Officer, depending on the behavior, so that we can advise and assist in responding to harassing speech or behavior and so that we know the frequency of such incidents.

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