No Free Lunch: It’s Hard to Write About the Good Things

Opinion by Zack Hoberg
May 23, 2011, 12:28 a.m.

No Free Lunch: It’s Hard to Write About the Good ThingsIf you’ve followed our column over the past few months, you’ve probably noticed that we’re somewhat critical of several aspects of Stanford. We’ve tried to weigh in on the most controversial topics on campus, but as the joke goes about the liberal/conservative divide in Synergy being drawn around paper towels, conflicts on campus are on relatively few fringe questions. The hot button issues we’ve highlighted comprise the five percent of on-campus topics that everybody doesn’t agree on, and the simple truth is that even with the enormous diversity of thought on campus, the vision for Stanford’s future is a widely shared one. That said, we thought we’d run through what we’ve written about, trying to put it in that context.

In our first column, we argued that introductory undergraduate education would be better served with dedicated instructors rather than regular faculty. While this may be the case, the problem is entirely overshadowed by the unbelievable quality of upper level courses once you manage to wade your way out of IHUM and the Math 50 series.

Next, we took up the concert scene, and although it still would be nice to have a big name concert in Frost in this lifetime, the social scene at Stanford is nothing to complain about, especially when compared to other universities of similar academic caliber. We definitely wouldn’t trade any other top 10 schools.

Then came ROTC. It’s been invited back on campus, which was probably a good thing. But either way, everything would have been all right, and life on campus, even for those most affected populations, would have been and will be just fine.

Then we dove into the alcohol policy and especially personal responsibility. We still believe that the brunt of the consequences surrounding a drinking incident should fall on the individual doing the drinking rather than on the institution enabling it. But taking a step back and looking at the alcohol policy in a broader context, Stanford is an incredibly safe and sheltered place to learn how to handle alcohol responsibly. Freshmen RAs are on the student’s side, law enforcement is relatively lenient and resources are committed to keeping underage students from drinking irresponsibly rather than drinking altogether.

We spent two columns on the ASSU election process, the first on special interest and coalitions and the second on campaign spending. In our minds, the election process would be improved considerably if both were limited significantly or done away with entirely. But the best part about the Undergraduate Senate, Class Presidents and ASSU Executive is that no matter how seriously candidates take the elections, they aren’t tasked with doing very much that’s fragile enough to be broken. In short, all they have the potential to do is improvement.

Another two columns were devoted to the quagmire that is special fees. They could use an overhaul — we sure don’t want to be the ones to do it. We think that the primary problem of the system stems from the fact that this is the majority opinion on campus. We hope that FLiCKS finds a way to operate next year, but if not, it’ll be a lesson learned about reading (and writing) the small print — we’re sure they’ll be back the next year.

We dove into the realm of the Stanford administrators with a column on the ongoing review of Judicial Affairs and another on Camp Stanford. On the Judicial Affairs front, we still think that faster case time and maintaining the current standard of proof is important. But those we talked to tasked with reforming it seemed reasonable, and we tend to trust the decisions they will make. And with Camp Stanford, while our proposed enrollment policy would likely be a net positive, the fact that the University cuts the seniors any slack at all is pretty remarkable.

Finally, we spent a fair amount of column space talking about housing politics and the Row geography. We’d like to see more draw parity between pre-assigning and rush. We’d like to see the Row revitalized by recognizing that it is highly desirable housing in low supply and choosing to relocate administrative functions elsewhere. But as with everything else, there’s only so much complaining you can do about something like the Row. Could you make it better? Absolutely, but it’s pretty amazing that it’s here in it’s current form in the first place.

We’ve really enjoyed writing this column, and we legitimately believe that Stanford would be a better place if some of the things we’ve discussed were changed. But we don’t take any of it too seriously, and neither should any one else. All in all, it’s a hell of a place to get to go to school: let’s enjoy it.


Write us about the good things or things to change — Dave and Zack at [email protected] and [email protected].

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