Where do I start?
I should probably be taking this opportunity — my last-ever column in these pages — to tear into Sam Fisher, Monday night sports desk editor and author of all the abusive contact lines at the end of my columns this past year. But however easy that might be, taking aim at Sam might give you entirely the wrong idea about how it feels to be leaving this place. Not just the Farm, but The Stanford Daily itself.
Almost four years ago, a shy and awkward grad student showed up on the doorstep of the Lorry I. Lokey Stanford Daily building with the crazy idea of trying his hand at the one thing most other engineering students avoid like the plague: writing. Back at Stanford after a long break from my studies, having originally left due to funding problems and then struggling with injury during my leave of absence, walking into a room full of fresh-faced undergraduates half-a-generation younger than me was a bit daunting.
I’m sure they were also a little bemused to have a grad student signing up for what was, and still is, an almost exclusively undergrad institution. Likewise my grad student friends continue to be puzzled by why I would want to spend my free hours away from research sleeplessly working, for free, with these same undergrads at The Daily.
The truth is, by accident more than design, I stumbled across a unique place on campus that September evening back in 2009, somewhere I could cross the gaping grad-undergrad divide and live just a little bit of that true American college experience. Not in a sketchy way — I’ve never been to Full Moon on the Quad or hung around outside Exotic Erotic, that’s just plain creepy — but instead as just one of the many Dailies that make this publication more than just a few sheets of paper.
Along the way I experienced the highs and lows of Stanford sports both home and on the road, defended The Daily’s honor in the Ink Bowl, its annual rivalry game against The Daily Californian, ate far too much CoHo and Treehouse food, stayed up until the small hours of the morning arguing and joking about nothing in particular while we put together a paper, and made some awesome — hopefully lifelong — friends.
Grad students constitute the vast majority of Stanford’s population, but this is not our university. I’m walking at Commencement, but I’ll never be in the Class of 2013. In a few years’ time, undergrads will be invited back for Homecoming; I won’t. That’s just the way it is. Our community is not the life and soul of this place. Just hang around a few extra days after the end of spring quarter and you’ll see this; though most grad students are still around, campus is dead.
But at The Daily I got to be just as much a part of things as any overachieving undergrad. There aren’t many organizations like this one on campus. Student-run and independent from the University — minus some help from Special Fees — its very survival is linked to the success or failure of its writers, editors and business team. It might be a far smaller institution than the New York Times, but the pressures it faces are no less real.
I once complained that grad students aren’t involved enough in Stanford sports. I realize now that this was shortsighted; the field and the bleachers are just the most obvious place where we fail to represent.
Grad friends complain that The Daily is undergrad-focused, and of course it is. Without grad students on staff, stories are far more likely to be drawn from the world of undergrads. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and it shouldn’t.
We’re all in this game together. Issues that affect undergrads also affect grads: access to housing, the Alternative Review Process, divestment, the University’s alcohol policy, etc. Whether you realize it or not, The Stanford Daily speaks for you.
Unfortunately, my time here at Stanford has run out, and the East Coast is now beckoning. For many of you, though, it’s not too late to be part of this. To apply your intelligence and talent to more than just homework, to learn all those writing, graphics and teamwork skills not by taking some abstract course, but by working hands-on in a real media organization. To improve and expand The Daily’s coverage of grad student issues and to get the inside track at Stanford on anything from the ASSU and GSC to the football team’s challenge for next year’s BCS National Championship.
And perhaps to discover why this grad student will miss this ragtag band of undergrads more than anything else on the Farm.
Tom Taylor’s departure leaves Sam Fisher without a purpose in life. Tom, you will be missed more than you will ever know. To thank Tom for his years of service to Stanford, email him at tom.taylor ‘at’ stanford.edu and follow him on Twitter @DailyTomTaylor.