Fall 2016 FAQs on Cap and Gown Changes

These FAQs cover the changes made to Cap and Gown as mentioned in the Fall 2016 Letter form the President of the Alumni Board.

What process did you go through to rewrite the constitution?

After learning about the changes in the policies of the administration, we created a cross-generational task force to examine the possibilities and determine our next steps. It was serendipitous that over the summer we conducted a survey of our membership and gained insight into what our alumni members appreciate about Cap and Gown and how and why they engage with the organization. The responses to the survey informed the conversations of the task force. One thing that stood out was how many members described what an honor it was to be asked to join Cap and Gown. We didn’t want to lose that.

The Actives Board met with the leadership of SAL several times last fall to better understand their concerns and requirements. Though SAL flagged our application process as out of compliance, we were able to use this method for one final year to tap 41 new members last November. Alumni-University Relations Chair Carol Benz led our conversations with the Stanford Alumni Association. Based on these conversations, the task force explored several options of how we might proceed and in the winter, we convened a special meeting of the entire board to discuss the options. At this meeting we took a moment to reflect on the essence of Cap and Gown and came up with four unique characteristics that we value in Cap and Gown:

• Intergenerational community

• Honoring excellence

• Service

• Leadership

We also had a discussion about the unique ways Cap and Gown could serve Stanford University. From fundraising for a designated place for women to meet on campus to supporting scholarships for women to connecting students and alumni, Cap and Gown has a rich tradition of meeting the needs of Stanford. We asked ourselves what needs we could help support today and brainstormed several ideas that will shape our plans for the coming years including:

• Providing experiential training to women to help them grow into leaders

• Fostering connections between alumni and students independent of geography

• Welcoming women to campus

• Honoring academic excellence that cannot be measured by GPA

Our discussion informed our creation of the Cap and Gown Leader Award and revised constitution and bylaws. Alumni Board President Kathryn Kilner and former Alumni Board President and current Vice President Kathy Chou along with the Actives Board met with the administration of SAL in April to share our plan of opening up membership to anyone at Stanford while also creating the Cap and Gown Leader Award to continue honoring those who demonstrate our values. Our proposal was enthusiastically endorsed by SAL. Meanwhile Carol Benz has shared our plans with SAA and is leading the team in working through some final details to finalize the new constitutions and bylaws.

What are the biggest changes in the constitution?

The biggest change to the constitution is the opening up of membership to anyone from the Stanford community and the creation of the Cap and Gown Leader Award to honor those who are actively engaged in our community and demonstrate our ideals.

What other options were considered?

After talking with administrators at both SAL and SAA, we became convinced that we would have to open up membership if we wanted to be included in those organizations. These organizations give us the right to be affiliated with Stanford, they help us manage our membership database, and they enable us to have our website hosted by the Stanford domain. The only exceptions to open membership are sororities and fraternities, and performance groups. We explored the possibility of becoming a sorority, but it is a lengthy process, often involving a national presence, and it was unclear whether our membership who are already in sororities could be in another one. We don’t qualify as a performance group. We investigated what would be involved in joining Mortar Board, but decided not to pursue it because it would involve garnering the support of the university and changes to our membership. Mortar Board has welcomed male members for decades, for example. Another option was to become affiliated with one of the departments on campus, but none of them made sense and supported us in making the transition. The Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Stanford, for example, was not supportive of what they saw as exclusionary policies. This was an evolve-or-die moment for our organization and we chose change over ceasing to exist.

Are alumni who were not members of Cap and Gown as undergraduates allowed to join the Cap and Gown alumni group?

Yes, alumni who were not members of Cap and Gown as undergraduates may join the Cap and Gown alumni group. The details of this are still being worked out.

Are men really allowed to join?

Yes, men are allowed to join Cap and Gown and earn the Cap and Gown Leader Award. For decades, women’s networks have supported women and fostered a dialogue among women about the challenges that women face, but it is crucial that men join that dialogue and understand the ways in which they can support women too. United Airlines recently launched a new hub of their corporate women’s network in San Francisco and the attendance was 40% men and the speakers were 50% men, who talked about the women who had supported them and the ways that they had supported women. There is value in educating men as allies and honoring those who support women leaders. The intent is not for just any man to join Cap and Gown, just as the intent is not for just any woman to join, but for those to join regardless of their gender who support our mission of celebrating and encouraging women leaders.

Are men allowed to join the Alumni Board? And, are alumni who were not members of Cap and Gown as undergraduates allowed to join the Alumni Board?

Yes, men and alumni who were not members of Cap and Gown as undergraduates are welcome to join the Alumni Board. Anyone who is a member of the Cap and Gown alumni group is eligible to join the Alumni Board. Our Nominations Committee will continue conducting the process of soliciting interest in joining the board from the broader membership and requesting nominations from board members for other members to join. They then review the qualifications of those put forward and conduct interviews on a selected basis to form a board with diverse backgrounds and skill-sets to meet the needs of the organization for the coming year. Past experience on the board will certainly be taken into consideration.

Will the relationship between Actives and Alumni change?

The purpose of the Alumni Board is to support the Actives in carrying out the mission of Cap and Gown, engage Alumni members in the Bay Area and around the world, and provide continuity in our traditions and operating procedures. The Alumni and Actives Board will continue to work together to carry forward the mission of Cap and Gown and meet regularly throughout the year, operating as a joint team.

Will there be a Tapping Tea next year?

For years we have been hosting Tapping Tea each November to welcome new members to Cap and Gown and reenact the traditional tapping ceremony experienced by so many of our members. We’ve also hosted a Graduation Tea on the Saturday of graduation weekend for graduating Actives and their families at the home of one of our alumni members. Our plan for next year is to combine these two events together in a single event that honors the graduating members who earn the Cap and Gown Leader Award. The event held on the Saturday of graduation weekend will provide an overview of Cap and Gown and its history and reenact the tapping ceremony. We are also hosting events for students in the fall in lieu of Tapping Tea to recruit new members.

Please contact Kathryn Kilner with any further questions at stanford.capandgown@gmail.com.