Wednesday, January 4, 2023
The Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative (EHLI) was an effort co-sponsored by the Stanford CIO Council and the People of Color in Technology (POC-IT) affinity group. This initiative was catalyzed by events at the national and campus level during 2020. It was created by and for the IT community, not the broader community, and intended as a guide, not a mandate. More specifically, EHLI was created to address racist terms historically used in IT, such as “master” and “slave” to describe aspects of systems. The initiative’s scope of “racist terminology in technology” was later expanded more broadly as “harmful language in technology.” It was this expansion in scope that is at the heart of the intense recent feedback from the Stanford community and beyond.
The Stanford IT community remains steadfast in its commitment to the university’s values of diversity and inclusion. The primary motivation of this initiative was always to promote a more inclusive and welcoming environment where individuals from all backgrounds feel they belong. The feedback that this work was broadly viewed as counter to inclusivity means we missed the intended mark. It is for this reason that we have taken down the EHLI site. The path forward will be determined after reviewing all recent feedback and consulting with university academic and administrative leadership. All efforts will be guided by Stanford’s commitment to academic freedom.
Chief Information Officer
Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Over the last couple of days, there has been much discussion of a website that provides advice for the IT community at Stanford about word choices in Stanford websites and code. This message seeks to provide clarification about some of the issues discussed.
First and importantly, the website does not represent university policy. It also does not represent mandates or requirements. The website was created by, and intended for discussion within, the IT community at Stanford. It provides “suggested alternatives” for various terms, and reasons why those terms could be problematic in certain uses. Its aspiration, and the reason for its development, is to support an inclusive community.
We have particularly heard concerns about the guide’s treatment of the term “American.” We understand and appreciate those concerns. To be very clear, not only is the use of the term “American” not banned at Stanford, it is absolutely welcomed. The intent of this particular entry on the EHLI website was to provide perspective on how the term may be imprecise in some specific uses, and to show that in some cases the alternate term “US citizen” may be more precise and appropriate. But, we clearly missed the mark in this presentation.
This guide for the university’s IT community is undergoing continual review. The spirit behind it, from the beginning, has been to be responsive to feedback and to consider adjustments based on that feedback. We value the input we have been hearing, from a variety of perspectives, and will be reviewing it thoroughly and making adjustments to the guide.
Chief Information Officer