By Fan Liu
At the end of spring quarter, Student Activities and Leadership (SAL) granted official student group status to new left-leaning publication The Stanford Sphere, affording the organization access to more funding and institutionalized support.
Founding Stanford Sphere Editor-in-Chief Ravi Jacques ’20 said that he was inspired to start the publication in what he called a “left-leaning attempt” to open up a venue for increased discourse on campus. He said his overarching goal with the Sphere is to transform the political left on campus through meaningful discourse.
“There’s leftist activism on campus, but I’m hoping the Sphere will transform the left on campus onto a more effective and thoughtful unit,” Jacques said.
The Sphere’s first application for official student group status during the 2018 winter quarter was rejected because the application was not clear enough. The organization described itself as a “non-doctrinaire” in its mission statement instead of “progressive.”
Jacques said “non-doctrinaire” meant that they “didn’t want to be bound by what we understood as the dogma of the American left.”
In its first quarter, the Sphere branded itself as a political magazine trying to diversify campus discourse from all, but predominantly left-wing, perspectives. In the organization’s second quarter, the still-nascent Sphere applied for official student status. At this point, the publication advocated for themselves as a “non-doctrinaire political magazine source.”
According to Jacques, SAL associate dean and director Nanci Howe advised the student leaders to change the statement from “non-doctrinaire” to “progressive.”
“The first time that they applied the committee did not feel that their application was sufficiently well-developed so they were asked to reapply,” Howe wrote in a statement to The Daily. “They did and were approved. SAL is excited about them joining the student media organizations and think that they will add new energy and perspectives.”
Sun Woo Lee ’20, another member on the editorial board, believes that SAL advisors pushed the group to fill a niche on the Stanford campus by taking on the role of a progressive publication.
“The people advising us with the process wanted us to take on the identity of a ‘progressive’ newspaper,” Lee said.
However, Lee believes that the Sphere is more than just a progressive publication. According to Lee, the founding members initially did not accept the brand of a progressive magazine because they thought that it may be limiting ideologically, and they found it odd that SAL was pushing for the status.
When asked whether SAL advised the Sphere to take on the niche of the progressive publication on campus, Howe wrote to the Daily, “I am hopeful that Sphere will find an active student audience as it moves forward.”
Ultimately, Jacques hopes that the Sphere will understand and critique the current and future trajectory of the American progressive movement. He said that articles like Jacob Kupperman’s Empty Resistance piece push forward this mission.
Additionally, Jacques and Lee said that the Sphere aims to examines politics through an international lens. Lee remarked that many of the Sphere’s opinion pieces are written by its international student writers, though she noted that the Sphere’s coverage of international politics does not generate as many views as its coverage of campus or U.S. news.
Both hope that the Sphere generates skepticism about the U.S.-centric angle of looking at politics.
“I think we are a liberal critique of the liberal stance,” Lee said.
Jacques does not foresee any major changes to the group’s mission, though he does hope to expand the group’s range of operations and initiatives to include speakers, events and more.
“I don’t think being officially recognized will radically transform us, but [it] will give us stronger foundations,” Jacques said.
Contact Fan Liu at fliu6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.