Ten Commandments for Stanford grad students

Opinion by J.Y. Lee
Sept. 16, 2015, 11:00 a.m.

And I spake all these words, saying, I am a Community Associate (CA) thy Virgil, who will help thee out of the land of Stanford, out of the house of cards.

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before thy sanity. When I asked Stanford President John Hennessey what he thinks is the biggest problem plaguing this idyllic campus, he responded mental health.
  2. Thou shalt not make unto thy resume any superhuman image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above. You should not lose sight of your friends and family in pursuit of a perfect career, for their eulogy is eternal, and your resume ephemeral.
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of thy professors and teaching assistants (TAs) in vain. But they are humans too, and should not be worshipped. When I handed in the same essay to both my professor and TA of an education class, the TA gave me a C, and the professor an A.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. Though rest is often neglected in the light speed of Silicon Valley, it is sacrosanct for maintaining life speed.
  5. Honor thy fatherland and thy mother nature: When I moved here from New Hampshire and Philly, I thought suburban Stanford lacks both culture and nature. I was stupid. Between the cultural triumvirate of San Francisco, Oakland and Stanford, as well as the nearby natural trio of beaches, mountains and national parks, you’ll find every tribe of surfers, ski bums, hippies, hipsters and geeks.
  6. Thou shalt not kill thy non-academic childhood aspirations in order to be a professor. Although a Stanford degree puts you in the academic 1 percent, the academic job market cannot absorb all of us. An American President, two Poet Laureates, half a dozen astronauts and a dozen billionaires were Stanford graduate students at some point in their lives.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery with undergrads you teach, even though they generally look better than grads. Although mingling of grads and undergrads is generally frowned upon, you should check out a frat party if you have never witnessed what happens when fast food culture hooks up with romance. Beauty dwells in the lacuna between desire and fulfillment, so don’t rush it.
  8. Thou shalt not steal, but you may steal from trees of knowledge throughout campus. What makes Stanford better than Harvard and MIT is that we excel in both humanities and engineering unlike our lopsided East coast peers. Take advantage of the classes and events at the b school, d school, ed school, and med school.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Instead, invite your neighbor for afternoon tea or midnight beer. If your CA does not foster an atmosphere of conviviality in your neighborhood, your CA is guzzling undeserved university funds or is incompetent. In either case, help build community and you may be rewarded with that job next year.
  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, his partner, his ass or his tech job. If you study humanities, you may feel antediluvian among techies who seem to have more options in life. That might be true in Silicon Valley but look beyond, and the world brims with opportunities for those who can manipulate not just codes, but symbols and ideas. Stanford also has deep pockets of resources to help starving writers get jobs, and I was a beneficiary interning in Hong Kong this summer on a fat paycheck from Leland.

And the Lord said unto me, thus thou shalt say unto the children of Stanford, ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.


Contact J.Y. Lee at junyoub ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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