Reconsider Professor Stephen Sohn's case for tenure
  • Petitioning Stanford Provost, John W. Etchemendy

This petition will be delivered to:

Stanford Provost, John W. Etchemendy

Reconsider Professor Stephen Sohn's case for tenure

    1. Petition by

      Debra Pacio

      Palo Alto, CA


Learn more on the background of the issue and our concerns in the following articles:

Search for Tomorrow (2007)

Professor Sohn was first hired as an Asian American novelist specialist

STATIC Op-Ed Article by Thanh D. Nguyen

From the perspective of a B.A. and  M.A. candidate advisee under Professor Sohn

Stanford Daily Interviews Petitioning Team

Petition contributors Annabeth Leow ‘16 and Sunli Kim ‘15 provide insight on their reasons for supporting the petition

Expanded Coverage of Stanford Daily Article

The Chronicle of Higher Education Vitae Article

On the role of the online petition in tenure cases from the perspective of students, the administration, and Professor Stephen Hong Sohn



We, the undersigned students, alumni, faculty, staff of Stanford University and other concerned community members, petition Stanford Provost, John W. Etchemendy & Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, Richard Saller, to request that Assistant Professor Stephen Hong Sohn be granted tenure.

We are very disappointed to learn about the decision to deny tenure to Professor Sohn. He has made extraordinary contributions to research, teaching, and community service in his capacity as Assistant Professor of English at Stanford since 2007. Professor Sohn also serves as an affiliated professor for Stanford’s Center for Comparative Study of Race & Ethnicity, Modern Thought & Literature, and Asian American Studies programs.

Professor Sohn authored Racial Asymmetries: Asian American Fictional Worlds (New York University Press, 2014) and is currently writing Live to Retell: Plotting Survival in Queer Asian American Fiction. Professor Sohn also published five peer-reviewed journal articles, all of which develop projects distinct from those addressed in his book. The interdisciplinarity of these journals, such as Cultural Critique, demonstrates the scope and relevance of his work. Additionally, Professor Sohn has edited several issues of prestigious journals, including Modern Fiction Studies, which is consistently ranked as one of the most impactful publications in the literary field; as well as books, the most recent being Anime Wong: Fictions of Performance by acclaimed cultural critic Karen Tei Yamashita. Professor Sohn’s prolific and polyvalent work is recognized by distinguished academic and creative communities across disciplines, and demonstrates the versatility of his intellectual contributions, rigorous research, and discerning perspective. His groundbreaking scholarship in queer and gender theory, transnationalism, American and Asian American literary criticism has impacted not only those in academia, but also students and community members of diverse backgrounds and aspirations.

The decision to deny Professor Sohn tenure may lead to his departure from Stanford, and we are alarmed at what this possibility will mean for Stanford and its students’ research and education. Professor Sohn‘s unique research and his courses that derive from it are not available elsewhere at Stanford. Moreover, they address frequently overlooked, yet extremely important perspectives that give students a deeper understanding of diversity and a stronger capacity to navigate different spaces and cultures. Professor Sohn’s many areas of expertise in conjunction with his research and course offerings have fulfilled a lack in current scholarship (as demonstrated by his current book) and opened up new areas of inquiry by his facilitation of dialogue between varied fields and media.

Professor Sohn’s interdisciplinary work extends to his mentorship, as well. His advisees come from various departments like CCSRE, Feminist Studies, MTL, ILAC, and Symbolic Systems, and their research have resulted in successful Chappell Lougee projects, award winning honors theses, and PhD dissertations. Further, Professor Sohn has empowered his students to apply the critical thinking and global citizenship that they have learned from his classes into their daily lives and professional careers. His 2010 Dean’s Award for First Years of Teaching at Stanford, 2010 Asian American Activities Center Stanford Faculty Award, 2011 Center for Comparative Study of Race & Ethnicity Faculty Recognition Award, and 2013 Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching all testify to Professor Sohn’s dedication and enthusiasm towards teaching and mentoring research.

We are also very concerned about the decision to deny tenure to Professor Sohn on grounds of diversity at Stanford. As aforementioned, this decision may lead to his departure from the university. Since the Office of the Provost and Stanford’s Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity Faculty Development Initiative was started in 2007, there has been difficulty recruiting and retaining professors who teach Asian American Studies (AAS) courses. Were it not for Professor Sohn’s numerous AAS cross-listed courses over the past six years, students would have found it even more challenging to take AAS classes, major/minor in the program, or find meaningful intersections between AAS and other academic fields. Given Professor Sohn's major role in fostering diversity in research, mentoring, and teaching at Stanford, reconsidering his tenure case would be an important demonstration of Stanford’s commitment to valuing diversity.

We thoughtfully ask you to reconsider tenure for Professor Stephen Sohn.


If interested, please submit a letter or a note with your thoughts by MAY 16 to the representative of the group that you most identify with:

Undergraduate: Annie Phan ‘16 (anphan[at]

Graduate: Helen Shin PhD ‘13 (haerin.shin[at]

Alumni/ Staff / Community members: Victoria Yee BA/MA ‘13 (yee.victoria[at]

Stanford Provost, John W. Etchemendy
Reconsider Professor Stephen Sohn's case for tenure

[Your name]

Recent signatures


    1. SAAAC Hosts Town Hall on Faculty Diversity at Stanford

      Debra Pacio
      Petition Organizer

      On May 1st, the Stanford Asian American Activist Committee (SAAAC) held a town hall discussing the state of faculty diversity at Stanford University. Community members convened to address their concerns, including the tenure case of Professor Stephen Hong Sohn.

      Learn more from the Stanford Daily:

      Continue to be a part of the conversation by writing a note or letter with your thoughts by May 16th or by becoming an active participant in the Faculty Diversity Task Force. The task force meets every Thursday from 8-9:30 PM in the Asian American Activities Center (A3C). For questions, please contact Sammie Wills (swills at

    2. 1,500 Signatures and Counting -Continue Your Support!

      Debra Pacio
      Petition Organizer

      In the last three weeks, we have garnered over 1500 signatures in support of Professor Stephen Hong Sohn. We would like to thank everyone who has shared and signed the petition. Your signatures, comments, and testimonials are invaluable to this movement to advocate for more diverse faculty, research, and education at Stanford.

      We would like to encourage all of you to continue to express your thoughts in either a note or letter so that we may strongly voice our community concerns together.

      Please continue to spread the word and make your voice heard. Letters are due by May 16th.

      Learn more on the background of the issue and our concerns in articles above.

    3. Reached 1,500 signatures


    Reasons for signing

    • Sam Julian CUPERTINO, CA
      • about 9 hours ago

      As a former student of Professor Sohn I was disappointed to hear he had not been granted tenure. I found Professor Sohn to be one of the better teachers in the English department at Stanford and am surprised at the decision not to grant him tenure. If a reconsideration of this decision is an option I support it.

    • Jon Harwell SALEM, OR
      • 5 months ago

      Very relevant to the current politics involving white privilege

      • 5 months ago

      Tenure process can be a covert racism against professors of color.

    • Greg Chase MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA
      • 5 months ago

      Concerned member of the Stanford area community.

    • Sarah Guan FOREST HILLS, NY
      • 5 months ago

      The reason that this brilliant, dedicated professor is being denied tenure is that the department deems his area of specialty, Asian-American literature, too "obscure," too "narrow," and "not important enough" -- i.e. not within the scope of the Western Canon populated by dead, white, male authors. This narrow-mindedness is unworthy of Stanford, a university that prides itself on diversity and innovation. Asian-American literature is a crucial category within American literature, and Asian-American writers are just as deserving of academic study as white American writers. The Western Canon -- the human literary canon -- does and should include writers like Amy Tan, Jamie Ford, Jhumpa Lahiri, Yiyun Li, Gish Jen, Chang-Rae Lee, Gail Tsukiyama, Ruth Ozeki... the list goes on and on. A professor who studies such writers should absolutely be treated with the same academic respect as one who studies Dickens or Hemingway or Steinbeck.


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