In 2019, Stanford settled a class-action lawsuit with Disability Rights Advocates for its “egregious” policies that coerced students to take leaves of absence if they experienced a mental health crisis. According to reporting by the Chronicle of Higher Education, “students said they had been falsely accused by administrators of disrupting the lives of their friends and had generally been treated as if they had committed behavioral infractions rather than simply asking for treatment, in an appropriate manner, for their disabilities during times of crisis.” One student told the reporter that, in recent years, students who were hospitalized for psychiatric treatment would “effectively disappear from campus.”
A student says, "There is not really a Disability culture on campus and therefore a lot of folks just aren't aware. One very obvious case is having Professors and supervisors press more with questions asking for a diagnosis when I request accommodations or let them know about my preferred ways of working or communicating."
Stanford has very draconian policies targeting neurodivergence, allowing members of its community to report "concerning behavior" through the Student Affairs website or on its Stanford Safety website (login required). By providing two separate reporting systems for the purpose of threat assessment on the one hand, and care on the other, Stanford seems to be inviting members of the community to indulge whichever bias happens to fit their motivations for filing a report. Although its guidance cautions people not to allow “unexamined biases and prejudices” to shape their judgments based on “race, ethnicity, gender, religion and personal background,” Stanford overtly stigmatizes neurodivergence by presenting the following behaviors as warning signs of imminent violence: “Alienates him/herself from others/family,” “Changes in behavior (sudden or otherwise),” “Bizarre behavior,” “Displays paranoia,” “Change in appearance/declining hygiene,” and “Social isolation,” to name a few. Furthermore, many of these behaviors can be reasonable reactions to harm that students typically experience in an ableist and toxic environment like that at Stanford. One student told us, “Experiences with both campus counseling and accommodations office required lengthy wait times and lots of paperwork, among other things -- all what I was not in a state to do at the time and was part of exactly what I needed help with at the time. Students are assumed 'normal' and 'functional' and need to 'prove' otherwise, and that burden can feel very heavy.”
Approximately 19% of students at Stanford are registered with the Office of Accessible Education. In 2022, The Stanford Daily published an unsettling compilation of comments by members of the community on their struggles with mental health at Stanford. One sophomore wrote, “Mental health at Stanford is an afterthought. The administration’s neglect is single-handedly responsible for my breakdown. I spent 45 minutes on hold with CAPS during an emergency trying to get help before my parents rushed to get me.”
Stanford has a student-run peer counseling center open 24 hours, and a Dean-on-Call is also available at all times for emergencies.
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In the past two months, Stanford has been victimized by a succession of antisemitic acts. On April 17, a Nazi swastika was found carved into the metal panel of a men’s restroom in the History Corner — the fourth time this odious symbol has been found in that location since Feb. 28. Some of these acts have also included the racist n-word and the letters “KKK.” On April 3, a mezuzah was torn away from the doorframe of an undergraduate residence and broken. And on March 10, a Jewish undergraduate student discovered a caricature of Adolf Hitler surrounded by swastikas on the whiteboard attached to his dorm room door.