Time to Move On

Opinion by Adam Johnson
Jan. 16, 2013, 10:44 p.m.

During spring break four years ago, I was admitted to the University of California, Berkeley. I was still waiting to hear back from a few schools – a couple Ivies and Stanford – but I expected rejection and thus set my sights on the gold and blue.

I never did go to Cal. I ended up being admitted to Stanford a week later, which was my dream school at the time. I attended Admit Weekend, had a great time and soon after sent in my enrollment deposit.

Almost four years later, and here I am facing down my graduation five months away. For a while, I considered coterming. Unlike many of my fellow students, I had no other attractive plans – no job on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley awaiting me. And there were a handful of coterm programs in fields that I am passionate about, with none of these having onerous applications to fill out.

And yet, the deadline for those submissions – January 15th – has come and gone; I failed to fill out a single application. Come June, then, I will be leaving Stanford for good. I have started to reflect on my years here. I will miss many things, to be sure: the diversity of student groups, the vitality of classes, and the natural beauty that California offers, to name a few.

There is also much I won’t miss. I will not miss, for instance, Stanford’s perfectly manicured campus.  When our environment is so ordered and beautiful, is there any room for us not to be? I will not miss the housing system – I am 21 now, an adult by most measures, and yet I am all but forced to enter the same residential bureaucracy as incoming freshmen. As a result I have no experience paying bills or managing my own living space.

Nor will I miss other aspects of the Stanford administration. The free speech rights the University grants me, for instance, are laughable. I am forbidden from setting up my guitar and selling CDs for a few bucks in White Plaza, the supposed “free speech zone,” but the University can host career fairs that span the entire space and likely result in significant returns on investment for the participating companies.

I certainly won’t miss the Silicon Valley ethos, either. I major in engineering, but the blind faith that many of my peers have in the beneficial power of technology profoundly worries me. They attack religion, only to turn around and worship the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and devote themselves to reading the Book of Jobs (Steve Jobs’ bestselling biography).

Nor will I miss Stanford’s activist community, which as a whole I perceive to be too ingrained in the echo chambers of our campus’ leftist bent. Since few here oppose the activist community, its members come to believe in the definite truth of their ideas, which in turn only silences conversation and debate more. A shame, for these are the ones who often care most about pressing societal and global issues.

Finally, I won’t miss how our student body regards normality as sin and treats friendship as something to be scheduled in alongside classes, meetings, and office hours.

And yet, if I were able to advise my high school senior self, knowing what I know now, I would suggest he make the same enrollment decision. Despite my disillusionment, I am not suffering here (some are, and we too often ignore this). Rather, I have grown tremendously at Stanford, discovering passions that I never knew I had. Had I attended a school with fewer humanities requirements, for instance, I would likely not have realized my affinity for subjects in those fields. In short, Stanford has been good for me. It is merely time for me to move on.

When will you be moving on?  Let Adam know at [email protected].

Adam is a senior from Illinois. He is majoring in Biomechanical Engineering, although his intellectual interests span dozens of departments. This is his second year writing for the Daily (you may remember him from his work last year on the Editorial Board). Outside of writing, Adam enjoys acting, skiing, making music, and thrift-store shopping.

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