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OPINIONS

Editor’s farewell: This is your school

This is my final day as president and editor in chief of The Stanford Daily. It has been an honor to serve this community.

Many editors have used this farewell letter to talk about how great their time as editor has been and how much they will miss it (let’s be honest, it is pretty awesome).

Today, I must use this space for something more important.

Last fall, President Hennessy quoted Steve Jobs’ famous 2005 commencement address in his convocation to the Class of 2016.

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Hennessy went on to tell the new class that their undergraduate education would serve as a foundation for their lives and that Stanford expected them each to become “an enthusiastic member of this academic community.”

But how often are we encouraged to decide what we want the Stanford community to become? And if our inner voice is critical of the current community, will Stanford still listen?

Students are encouraged by their professors to critically examine the world and work to maximize their potential and positively impact their community.

But outside of the classroom, the situation changes drastically. Now, little Stanford student, you aren’t supposed to say a single negative word about your Stanford experience.

This is Stanford. We are all geniuses who bathe in the sun, rip shots while coding, smoke while analyzing Chaucer, roll out of bed late and crush the McKinsey interview and get a nice night’s sleep before doing it again. And we’re all happy.

There aren’t problems with mental health stigmas on campus, brought sharply into focus by student suicides last spring. Students shouldn’t be concerned about the autonomy and direction of student housing, particularly in row houses and Suites. Students shouldn’t be concerned about the current state of sexual assault on campus, nor the few protections the Alternative Review Process affords the accused.

Critically analyze your reading, not the quality of your Stanford experience.

Indeed, there are, have been and always will be problems.

Students are attempting suicide. Students are sexually assaulting other students. Do you know how many? Do you know if the numbers are going up or down? Do you know what’s being done to address either issue?

No. We’ve failed you as journalists. Your university has failed you. We’ve failed each other as community members.

The culture of silence at Stanford has gotten out of hand, and no one has noticed. Stanford has become so obsessed with a perfectly manicured image that it sweeps very real issues under the rug.

I guess “have open, honest discussions about depression across campus” doesn’t look as good as a palm tree on an admissions brochure.

Of course we need to respect privacy. But that’s why the University can provide statistics that protect people’s identity and that’s why journalists hold anonymity so sacred.

We worked to overcome this silence by banning email interviews this fall, which the University has abused to replace quotes with press release sound bites. The pushback from many, all purportedly tasked with serving the students and the community, was frankly unbelievable.

Some administrators have been great. The student body is very lucky to have a Vice Provost of Student Affairs, Greg Boardman, who strongly supports the autonomy of the student press.

Others have been offensively useless. Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE) exists to serve students and the Stanford community – unless that involves talking to the most-read student publication, of course. We’ve had interview request after request declined, only to be told that we’ll receive an emailed statement that is often barely relevant and praises R&DE no matter what the situation.

I can’t even count how many meetings I’ve had with Stanford administrators to discuss why they’re too busy to meet with our reporters.

I’m sick of administrators lying to my face. I’m sick of being told we can’t have any numbers or information on suicide attempts, but being given a press release, complete with quotes from President Hennessy, telling us how transformative it is that the School of Education has added the word “Graduate” to its title. I’m sick of being told that the administration has students’ best interest in mind when no apparent attempts are made to engage with students in meaningful dialogue before decisions are made.

I love this school, and yes, we do live in a physical paradise. But by admitting that it isn’t perfect, by openly admitting that we have serious, serious issues to deal with, we can start to work towards solutions.

Luckily, I have another year and a half here to help – help with the next generation of Daily staff so they will fight for what’s right and fight to get information out there.

But we need to help ourselves. The responsibility lies with all of us in the community to be actively engaged, care about the issues and challenge both media coverage and the University.

We at The Daily have long served as a watchdog for the University, with our readers serving as our watchdogs. Now more than ever, with the Stanford PR machine working overtime to make sure every single possible story is bubbly and positive, we need to stay focused and be heard.

Follow your heart and intuition. Keep fighting. And most of all, don’t let the administration drown out your voice. This is your school.

Best,

Billy Gallagher
President and editor in chief, Vol. CCXLII

Read Executive Editor Brendan O’Byrne’s farewell note here.

About Billy Gallagher

Billy Gallagher is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily. He has previously worked at The Daily as editor in chief, a managing editor of news, news desk editor, sports desk editor and staff development editor. He is a junior from Villanova, PA majoring in Economics. He is also a writer for TechCrunch.
  • -

    Wanted to write an article on not a single university email regarding the suicides, same silence about taking over Chi Theta Chi, and that Stanford Housing Assignments backlash at the Daily for publishing draw numbers (knowing which is apparently “not in the student’s best interest”) for a long time – glad you did.

  • Valeet

    Good for you for speaking truth to power. We don’t need a perfect university, we need one that nourishes our students and helps turn them into productive adults. No one is served by sweeping real issues under the rug.

  • lotay

    favorite daily op-ed in a long time :) i wish our community talked about this so openly and honestly all the time. i think a lot of us feel the same way but find it difficult to express. thanks so much, billy! #prat

  • Thanks

    This is a tremendous op-ed. Thanks for all your work, Billy.

  • Andrew

    The guy who published the sex diaries wants to be a serious journalist now?

  • Adam Johnson

    This and Brendan’s columns were very strong, and needed, send-offs. Thanks for taking the risk you guys!

  • thanks

    Thank you for your commitment to the truth, Billy. The administrations seems to forget that it’s defining purpose is to serve the students of this school, not the school’s reputation.

  • PC

    The best op-ed ever since I read the Daily. Please keep fighting. R&DE is very oppressive and I suspect they will not change soon. We just need to be strong and fight with them.

  • Liz

    Thank you thank you thank you for this article.

  • DistressedStudent

    Stanford has one of the worst RES programs I have ever seen.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for writing this, Billy. I agree with nearly all you’ve said and am glad you have the courage to post it. I’m highly critical of Stanford and feel very alienated by the administration especially. The culture here is horrid (especially with regards to the stigmatization of mental health issues), and the University only serves to reinforce unrealistic expectations and downplay the reality that many students are struggling, and that the University is a business. Stanford is becoming more and more corporate, and less and less focused on the students.

    Discussing suicide, mental health, and sexual assault are indeed taboo, and much more common than people think. And I am, sadly, intimately familiar with all three topics. Thank you for bringing these issues up.

    And thank you also for pointing out the problems inherent in the new Alternative Review Process–perhaps the bravest thing you wrote, given the sensitive nature of the topic, especially for victims of (sexual) abuse and assault. I’ve been highly critical of it, as it does very little to protect the accused. As someone falsely accused of something less heinous, I fear for the young people who may find themselves in an even worse position. Part of the reason I hold the administration in contempt is the way they handled it with me (bullying, no attempt to listen to my side of the story, etc.), which drove me to attempt suicide. The administration’s response was minimal. I never received so much as an apology–and was forced to agree not to discuss the details with anyone, lest it come out that Stanford isn’t so perfect, after all.

  • class of 04

    Bravo for your journalistic integrity. Thank you for saying what Stanford students have been thinking for years.

  • Lauren

    Good for you! Speak your truth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/downwiththeunreasonable David Christopher Arnold

    And yet, given this extraordinary platform from which to highlight these issues, even the Stanford Daily editor with nothing to lose only alludes to problems without doing some real journalism and exposing said issues – no, that would be too much work. Sure, too much work for a student newspaper.

    So obviously, said editor went ahead and pinpointed a couple of embarrassing issues to show us all the kind of transformative writing we should do. Oh wait, no.

    Made some suggestions. Quoted some statistics. Nope.

    Did anything but complain that yes, things are bad and no one is talking about those bad things including him.

    Nope.

  • Guest

    Sometimes, I think the Ashton-Gallagher campaign is one giant scheme to drive online traffic to this page…