Stanford University is being accused of shutting down all martial arts groups on campus without warning.
Stanford alumni Matthew Choi took to the Facebook group Subtle Asian Traits to explain the situation and list the supposed reasons behind why all Stanford martial arts groups were “unceremoniously dumped and shut down over email.”
According to Choi, the university’s justification behind the shutdown can be summarized in four points: “the groups like to unofficially practice during dead week, they recruit professional, internationally renowned coaches to run their practices, they compete and regularly win national championships without University help, they participate heavily in the local community by teaching students, alumni, and community members.”
The former student has explained that while the Stanford Martial Arts Programs have been running successfully for two decades, regularly communicating with administrators with no previous issues, the University has now decided that the groups’ interactions with community members outside of the university was unacceptable.
“The groups allow community members and alumni in practices,” Choi wrote. “The University is taking such a hard line on this point that groups cannot even bring in outside coaches to teach anymore, let alone allow alumni and community members to participate/teach at practices. Students are now expected to teach all these practices.”
Previously the programs would hire professional coaches to train classes, many of these coaches are world renowned athletes, such as an Olympic-level archery coach and former international wushu champion and teammate of Jet Li.
These instructors would help host regular self-defense seminars for students and the surrounding communities, while allowing alumni, staff, and other locals to take part in classes they otherwise would not have access to.
“These are things the clubs have been doing for a couple of decades, and which Stanford has been aware of and allowed for the same amount of time,” Choi explained. “The clubs have worked with the same administrator, Nanci, for that time, she’s been familiar with the practice, and has never mentioned any of this as a serious issue.”
These activities used to be a positive community building experience for all those involved, and a way of connecting students, alumni, staff members, and locals together. However, the new restriction imposed by the university has affected more than just the martial arts programs, it is reportedly disadvantaging many other groups with heavy Asian American involvement.
“What makes it even worse for me, lots of groups that happen to have heavy Asian American membership have also been affected. They weren’t shut down, but they were banned from having community members,” Choi states.
“Just like Stanford martial arts groups, groups like Stanford Archery and many dance groups like Ballroom Dance gave and learned a lot from the local community. It’s also been key for helping them raise funds for their coaches and travel to national tournaments. Many of the groups, even if they were to fully comply next year, would either be severely crippled or unable to continue.”
While it could be argued that the policy itself is neutral, Choi explains the end result of the university’s action is undeniable, “[the policy] still hurts groups that are mostly Asian in membership. That’s not good whether it’s on purpose or not.”
There is also a rather clear double standard in this supposed liability assessment which has not yet been addressed by the University.
According to the alumni, non-students are allowed to access Stanford Gyms with students, completely unsupervised. “That’s a risk the university is perfectly happy with right now. This is the same with most other universities,” he wrote.
“On the other hand for our activities, groups are supervised and taught by professional coaches, many of them internationally renowned. Everyone joining in is known, and kept track of. If anything, the risk level is lower.”
However, the new policy demands that these martial arts groups ban community members such as university alumni as well as the professional coaches. This presents safety concerns for the members, “So now, you’ve created even more liability, because you have untrained students attempting to teach themselves martial arts from the Internet,” Choi says.
The Stanford University Wushu team is a several-time national collegiate champion. Similarly, other martial arts groups such as Taekwondo, Karate, Kenpo, Judo, and Jujitsu, are prestigious teams home to champions.
The absence of professional trainers, however, would hurt the success of these programs while also disadvantaging the communities outside of Stanford who also enjoyed these experiences. If this policy continues, students fear they will be kept in an isolated bubble, unable to properly train or communicate with others practicing the craft outside of their campus.
NextShark has reached out to Howard Wolf, Vice President of Alumni Affairs at Stanford, and Susie Brubaker-Cole, Vice Provost for Student Affairs at Stanford, but have yet to receive a reply.
Choi’s full text post can be viewed below:
Martial Arts Banned at Stanford
Hey SAT family, sorry have a serious one for you. So if you know me at all you know I’m a big wushu and martial arts fan and started at Stanford (I’m an alum now).<
However, the craziest thing happen recently. Stanford shut down all martial arts groups on campus without any warning.
The issue? Not because of some crazy scandals like our actual sports teams (hi Turner and Vandemoer). But because all the groups work too hard at being exceptional at what they do.
- like to unofficially practice during dead week
- they recruit professional, internationally renowned coaches to run their practices
- they compete and regularly win national championships without University help
- they participate heavily in the local community by teaching students, alumni, and community members.
The University doesn’t like any of those things, and really strangely, it especially doesn’t like the fact that students get to interact with community members. This is despite the Stanford Martial Arts Program having done this successfully for two decades, and having regularly communicated its programs with the same administrator for the same two decades. The groups were unceremoniously dumped and shut down over email.
What is the Actual Ban
A lot of people have commented asking for supporting/links original emails. Thank you for the healthy skepticism, and keeping me honest. Most of the group’s haven’t posted about it, and are keeping quiet, here the few that have:
Stanford Archery’s page:
Stanford Wushu’s page:
Stanford Akido’s page: http://aikido.stanford.edu/suspended
The text of the martial arts suspension is on Akido’s page. Almost all of the bullet points raised in the email are completely untrue and I don’t want to spend time on them (finances are preapproved and audited by the student government, of course the clubs are run by student leaders, of course they meet with ASSU, SAL, and student government regularly, etc).
The only true point, is that the groups allow community members and alumni in practices. The University is taking such a hard line on this point that groups cannot even bring in outside coaches to teach anymore, let alone allow alumni and community members to participate/teach at practices. Students are now expected to teach all these practices.
These are things the clubs have been doing for a couple of decades, and which Stanford has been aware of and allowed for the same amount of time. The clubs have worked with the same administrator, Nanci, for that time, she’s been familiar with the practice, and has never mentioned any of this as a serious issue.
In the martial arts programs, all the groups hire professional coaches and set up dedicated/full training classes. We also regularly host self-defense seminars for campus and the community.
These are students holding and running classes with professional coaches for themselves and the local community. Clubs give back to the community by allowing alumni, staff, and locals to take part in classes they normally wouldn’t have access to. Many of the coaches are world class (Olympic-level archery coach, former international wushu champion and teammate of Jet Li for wushu, etc).
This is something we do to connect the experience of students and community together and is a positive experience for everyone involved. The community and students end up being an extended family that shares in their unique discipline. This the type of community building and partnership that colleges like Stanford regularly talk about building.
Why This Can Be an Asian & Asian American Issue
Feel free to skip this section if you don’t believe in these type of things, I think there’s still a strong argument without it.
What makes it even worse for me, lots of groups that happen to have heavy Asian American membership have also been affected. They weren’t shut down, but they were banned from having community members.
Just like Stanford martial arts groups, groups like Stanford Archery and many dance groups like Ballroom Dance gave and learned a lot from the local community. It’s also been key for helping them raise funds for their coaches and travel to national tournaments. Many of the groups, even if they were to fully comply next year, would either be severely crippled or unable to continue.
The policy itself seems neutral, so you’re probably thinking this isn’t racist, it’s just the University locking down rules. Of course it’s not targeted (at least hopefully), but the end result is undeniable, you’re still hurts groups that are mostly Asian in membership. That’s not good whether it’s on purpose or not.
The same happens when you tax soda. You think you’re preventing people from drinking unhealthy drinks, which is true, but as a side effect, you also end up taxing the poor. This turns out to be because the poor are more likely to stay with their vices
In this case, I believe this is happening due to a confluence of culture, and admissions selection criteria.
Asians, are more likely to run their groups as extended families that connect with the local community. In the East, you are much more likely to define yourself through the relationships and social connections to yourself. Even for Asian Americans, born in the US, this is something that is probably passing through their cultural upbringing.
But that’s just one aspect of it. Admissions at higher education for Asians Americans is extraordinarily tough. It’s been shown that admitted students have higher academic marks and extracurricular activities than their peers due to affirmative action
I don’t want to rabbithole on that debate, but the upshot, is through admission pressure the Asian students you’re bringing in at top universities are going to be superstars in extracurriculars.
So as a result, they’re not going to limit themselves to normal student activities of just hanging out in simple hobbyist club (nothing wrong with that, but that’s not who they are). They’re always going to do the extreme, because that’s who you selected for during admissions. In the case of martial arts enthusiasts, they’re going to bring in professional coaches, they’re going to practice during dead week, and they’re going to involve the community to learn more and bring in more students. In the case of archery, this manifested as them running $100k/year archery programs via teaching community programs to kids. They’re always going to bring it to the next level. That’s how they got in, and that’s who they are.
Ok Sure, But It’s Just a Liability Assessment, and You’re a Liability
Non-students are allowed to use Stanford Gyms. For example, almuni can checkin, and then go to play whatever sport they want. They come in and play pick-up basketball with students today, completely unsupervised. That’s a risk the university is perfectly happy with right now. This is the same with most other universities.
On the other hand for our activities, groups are supervised and taught by professional coaches, many of them internationally renowned. Everyone joining in is known, and kept track of. If anything, the risk level is lower.
The university is actually asking that martial arts groups not only ban community members like alumni, but also remove their professional coaches. So now, you’ve created even more liability, because you have untrained students attempting to teach themselves martial arts from the Internet.
Even if no one get seriously injured form this, it’s no question, that not being able to bring in actual coaches would hurt the success of all these programs. Speaking for Wushu alone, it has been a several time national collegiate champion, and has been home to several all-around champions. TKD, Karate, Kenpo, Judo, Jujisitu, and all the other martial arts groups are just as storied.
Now think of the benefits of community participation. The combined programs of SMAP, archery, and many others, have taught and mentored tons of kids and adults in the local community. Even in this post tons of people are speaking up about their experience with the various martial arts groups, and archery. From wushu alone, we’ve trained and mentored kids who eventually enrolled at Stanford. This is the type thing you really want to be doing as a university, instead of keeping students in an isolated bubble (a common Stanford criticism).
If you agree with these principles, then help us convince the university that it’s actually similar or lower risk than what’s allowed today, that the things we’re doing are good for the students and the community, and that it’s not a good idea to run martial arts practices without qualified professional instruction.
How to Help
It would be great if you guys could help spread the word about this. Please complain to the following people at Stanford:
Howard Wolf, Vice President of Alumni Affairs
[email protected], https://twitter.com/hkrtwolf
Susie Brubaker-Cole, Vice Provost for Student Affairs
[email protected], https://twitter.com/brubakersusie
PS: Here’s a trailer of Stanford Wushu cause we’re a cool group and we’re banned. And banned things are even cooler: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8jpp5b_wpw
Featured image via YouTube / @bluehippofilms