OPINIONS

On Ike’s, protest and privilege

“We’re losing our sandwiches!” the protestors shouted out into the void. “What was that?” the void shouted back. “Sorry, I’m kind of busy right now.”

Last Friday, as I chewed on my slightly dry, under-cheesed Subway sandwich outside of Tresidder, I heard a crowd of people roar behind me. I turned around and my heart swelled when I saw a gathering of students, eyes ablaze, speaking out with one voice.

But then I listened more closely to that voice, and realized that they were protesting the closing of Ike’s Place. My heart sank. Those gathered were decrying a vision of Stanford in which cleverly named, mozzarella-stick-filled sandwiches are ghosts of the past. As I watched, I thought about everything that voice wasn’t saying, and I got pretty bummed out.

Let me back up: I love Ike’s. I think that Ike’s sandwiches are delicious and I have appreciated their ubiquity at student group meetings. I also think that campus restaurants operated by Residential and Dining Enterprises are bland and lack personality. My experience with R&DE sometimes makes me feel that they care about food quality the same way they care about students protesting in White Plaza—they don’t.

That’s really the issue, the extent to which an R&DE, which states as its core belief that “students…are the reason we’re here,” seriously considers their feedback. In this case, previous reporting has made it clear that to R&DE, student opinion was secondary to business concerns. There was a questionable student survey, a secret committee and some good old-fashioned bureaucracy. Further, ASSU Senator Andrew Aude ’16 has articulated significant ways in which R&DE is generally inefficient and wasteful. With that in mind, I agree that Stanford mostly overstepped in evicting Ike’s from campus, though as some have pointed out, Ike’s has tended to be overpriced and inconvenient.

Really, this is a boring issue, so I’m trying to figure out why it has inspired such fervor among the student body. I think what it ultimately comes down to is privilege. I don’t mean privilege as the benefit that comes from being a particular race, gender, class or sexual orientation, but rather simply as the state of having something good.

In that sense, Stanford students are awash with privilege. We are privileged to have access to academic resources such as massive libraries and research grants. We are privileged to live in a relatively crime-free area, and to walk outside comfortably in varying states of inebriation.

We are also privileged to have R&DE providing us with food and housing. Last weekend, I went to Wilbur Dining and ate pho and garlic breadsticks, then ice cream, then more breadsticks. I hate FloMo Dining Indian food with all of my being, but that’s only because I’ve grown tired of it after over 50 Sunday dinners. What we get from R&DE may not be exceptional, but it is good. Of course, as students, we hope that R&DE will strive for excellence, but at what point does “good” or even “just okay” warrant a protest?

Look at it this way: From an outsider’s perspective, the Save Ike’s movement is at best frivolous, and at worst, embarrassing. It looks like a privileged group of students who enjoyed sandwiches, lost their sandwiches and now want those sandwiches back. It looks like a group of Stanford students who are purposely ignoring a troubling set of social ills and complicated questions, all in the name of sandwiches.

I fear that I sound like someone who is jaded and crotchety, but I’m really just confused. The compulsion to protest is not one that I usually share, even for issues that I really care about. Still, I admire and respect those who are willing to shout to make their voices heard, and I know how effective protests can be at starting conversations that lead to progress.

When I wandered into the crowd last Friday, I wasn’t sure what conversation these protestors were trying to start. “Ike’s > R&DE,” one sign read. Another put “R&DE” inside of a stop sign. Ike Shehadeh himself was there, understandably upset. But his business has 12 other locations; he will be okay. I left after a few minutes, and the crowd thinned some time after that, and we all returned to the comfort of our dorm rooms. We will be okay.

This issue is not worth our time. The worst possible use of the talents, passion and energy of Stanford students is to narrowly focus on the annoyances we face on campus for the four years that we’re here. Stanford tends towards a certain myopia, so the perspective of an outsider ends up being of vital importance, because only through that lens can we look beyond Campus Drive to the problems that matter, both for us and for not-us. This is a battle that the Ike’s protestors have lost, mistakenly believing there was a war in the first place.

Contact Matt Lopez at malopez@stanford.edu.

  • ’14

    You clearly don’t see the point of the protests or the implications or R&DE’s takeover of campus establishments. I’m not even going to try refuting this absurd piece.

  • ’14

    *implications of

  • Enzo

    Terrible piece. He acknowledges that he isn’t involved in the protests agains Ike’s eviction but still makes sweeping judgments on their motives.
    Also, his base argument against the protest is that since there are bigger ‘social evils’ in the world nobody should care about Ike’s at Stanford. By the same logic any civic participation in the public life, referendum, revolt, is useless. Someone should teach him the meaning of “democracy”.

  • Myles Keating

    “What we get from R&DE may not be exceptional, but it is good. Of course, as students, we hope that R&DE will strive for excellence, but at what point does “good” or even “just okay” warrant a protest?”

    I have to disagree with you here. You basically say we ought to be willing to settle for good enough. That is a completely misguided philosophy. Settling for good enough sure as hell didn’t get you to Stanford, and it doesn’t change things for the better.

    Do you want the people making your bike helmet to settle for good enough, or do you want the thing protecting your skull to be as good as it can possibly get? Do you want your professors to settle for lectures that are good enough, or do you want them to bust their asses and put out really quality material?

    Moreover, with the example of removing Ike’s, we are not merely settling but rather actively going out of our way to change for the worse, the blander, the less exciting, the same as every other R&DE thing out there. Every time I go to Ike’s there’s a line. I haven’t examined their finances so I don’t know how they’re doing, but at the very least there is obvious popular demand from students.

    Arguing Ike’s is expensive doesn’t fly with me. Ike’s is one of a multitude of student dining options, most of which are cheaper or effectively free. It is not the duty of every eatery on campus to lower its prices. If you crave Ike’s so dearly and don’t have the money, if it really matters to you that much, then earn some money for yourself. Don’t ruin everyone’s fun because you can’t have something.

    Finally, it is completely silly to claim the moral high ground and argue that there is some particular order of issues students should protest. That we “are purposely ignoring a troubling set of social ills and complicated questions, all in the name of sandwiches.” First of all, let me humbly suggest that you are assuming these students are not also protesting the alarming prevalence of sexual assault, are not protesting for queer rights, are not also protesting a myriad of more ultimately meaningful issues. That is a questionable assumption based on no fact.

    Moreover, focusing on a local issue like Ike’s that we can (hopefully) directly affect makes a lot of sense to me. Frankly I don’t care what an outsider with no perspective on the issue thinks. Who are they or you for that matter to dismiss someone’s obviously heartfelt protest as insignificant and not worth their time? This is my only four years here and I want them to be as incredibly awesome as possible, not merely good enough. Ike’s is a small part of that experience, but it is certainly something.

  • ’16

    Thanks Matt, I generally agree with most of what you said.

    My biggest problem with the student response to Ike’s closing has been the rush to assume bad intentions on the part of R&DE. Sure, many students are upset that Ike’s sandwiches will no longer be available, but the fact is that Ike’s is expensive, unhealthy, and inefficient. While it’s nice, as a student, to have a nice lunch option on Saturdays when FloMo dining is closed, for professors, faculty, or researchers working in the SEQ, Ike’s doesn’t really make sense as a convenient, regular, and affordable lunch option. I think this is what the committee that chose R&DE over Ike’s was getting at, and it’s incredibly rude and presumptuous for student’s to claim that R&DE is “out to get them” or anything along those lines. In reality, the people behind this decision were likely well-intentioned and just trying to balance complex tradeoffs as part of their job. While it is unfortunate that we’ll lose a tasty lunch splurge option, it’s certainly not the end of the world, and whatever replaces Ike’s next year may turn out to be a better option overall.

  • Gabe

    “It looks like a group of Stanford students who are purposely ignoring a troubling set of social ills and complicated questions, all in the name of sandwiches.”

    This is a classic argument which I’ve seen used time and time again to delegitimize any form of complaint – essentially, “why are you complaining about this thing, when there’s this other worse thing happening in the world at the same time?” Well, great, there are worse things happening in the world right now. I’m sure the Ike’s protesters know this, and I’m sure some of them are even working on tackling those worse issues at the same time.

    Just because something worse is happening in the world doesn’t mean that something more frivolous like pushing to keep your favorite restaurant open isn’t worth the effort. If we truly cared about not wasting our time with frivolities, most of us should probably be volunteering in third world countries instead of even going to college in the first place.

  • C

    I sympathize with the view expressed, but I think there is much more to it. There are real issues here. Is it about sandwiches? Sure, it absolutely is. But it is also about diversity, and the kind of environments and people we are exposed to and become comfortable with. Ike’s is a fun place to be not only because I like the food . I also enjoy it because the staff there sometimes swear, crack risque jokes and/or wear interesting clothes. I also like the music that plays there. These subtle cultural shifts mean that it’s the only place on campus where I feel at home. It’s clear that this (the music and the culture/behavior of staff) is part of why the administrators felt threatened by Ike’s and tried to get rid of it. One of the committee members and the lead contract administrator has stated as much on the record. It wasn’t viewed as acceptable (by Lindsey Akin) to have a location like that when there might be a donor eating or walking nearby. For me, this is part of what is at stake. If the only thing that can be tolerated is sanitized to the point of blandness… if employees of businesses here have no opportunity for self-expression and can only communicate with the niceties demanded – mandated! – by their employers , we lose out. Stanford might tolerate or even welcome different races, different genders and different sexualities. But we don’t tolerate someone who dresses a little hood and plays rap music with bad words. That’s too much for us. In kicking out Ike’s, Stanford is saying “Those white men in their sixties who wear collared shirts and carry an air of self-importance, they are your masters. Learn to act like them. We don’t care what about your race or gender or what you do in the bedroom, but you best not disrupt our little hygienic bubble with the possibility of any kind of culture that is not washed completely clean. And if you don’t play by these rules, you’re not welcome here.” Perhaps this is part of the reason there is no social or political activism on campus. There are few opportunities to interact with people who haven’t learnt the Stanford way of being. The Stanford way of being lacks emotion and lacks anger. You can’t express your struggle and you don’t get angry or call out your bosses. The energy that inspires activism is unwelcome. Furthermore, the lack of contact with different kinds of people makes it hard to become invested in activism in a more than superficial way. Sure, I want my sandwich. But I also want Stanford to realize that most of its donors have probably heard and may even use the word fuck. (I know my advisor did in our first meeting.) When you kick out a business because it employs kids from a range of socio-economic backgrounds, who feel a little free, who aren’t self-censoring to look like everyone else (or don’t feel that’s important/realize it’s even a thing you can do), you are applying a double standard. That makes me feel less comfortable on campus, and it makes me feel pessimistic about the possibility of collective action on more important issues. Build a culture that tolerates difference. Save Ike’s.

  • YouMissedThePoint

    The protest was not about losing Ike’s, but R&DE’s monopoly on eateries on campus. Even you admit that R&DE’s food is bland and repetitive. Have you seen any visible comment boxes around the dining halls? (The answer is no.) Also, one can argue anything is about privilege. Ironically, this attitude of complacency itself is indicative of privilege. I come from a middle-class background, and I am APPALLED that, for all the money I pay to R&DE, I get substandard food. Is that not something worth fighting against? Throwing your hands up in the air is lazy.

  • Guest

    “This issue is not worth our time.”

    How about this: you decide what is worth spending your time on, and let others decide what they want to spend time on.

    I’m confident that a micro-analysis of your life will reveal that you partake in activities which some might consider a “waste of time.” So let the microscope work both ways Matt.

  • Class of ’15

    I have to disagree with this statement. Please read the other op-eds on this issue (including the comments — R&DE’s administrators have been nothing but rude and opaque this whole time) and pay special attention to R&DE’s tax avoidance (in Andrew Aude’s piece).

    http://www.stanforddaily.com/2014/04/29/rde-no-substitute-for-ikes/
    http://stanfordreview.org/article/rde-give-me-my-dana-scully-back/

  • Celery

    There’s a lot that goes on in R&DE that most students don’t get to see. There are passionate staff that work tirelessly to make dining healthier and more sustainable but it’s impossible to please everyone or to make immediate dramatic progress. And a few months ago I got to be part of the first focus group with staff hired specifically to make the new R&DE cafe — they’re genuinely trying to give us what we want. Of course they’re a business and there’s a lot to improve but I think it’s unfair to demonize them so viciously.

  • BrokenSystem

    Are you a Stanford student?

    “[B]ut the fact is” is the exact phrasing that Shirley Everett and Michael Gratz (R&DE leaders) have used extensively throughout their commentary on this issue.

  • ’16

    Thanks for the piece, Matt, really enjoyed it and thought you raised some valid points about Stanford myopia. I’m still protesting R&DE’s decision to remove Ike’s.

    I find it strange that oftentimes, when I see a well-written and well-thought opinion on Stanford Daily, it’s quickly smeared with “rude and opaque” comments casting aspersions on the author’s intentions, lifestyle, and everything other than his or her opinion. I wonder if they have even read the article, or have “missed the point” of an opinion piece, as they allege the author has.

  • Coo

    This is a very weak response. What your comment boils down to is: “Maybe you are right and we are wasting our time, but you Matt also waste your time in different ways, so us wasting our time should be fine.” This doesn’t address the substance of the article, which is thoughtful and thought-provoking.

  • BrokenSystem

    You just trashed Ike’s in another comment “but the fact is that Ike’s is expensive, unhealthy, and inefficient.”
    Now you say “I’m still protesting R&DE’s decision to remove Ike’s.”

    I hope you’re being ironic.

  • BrokenSystem

    “And a few months ago I got to be part of the first focus group with staff hired specifically to make the new R&DE cafe”

    So they had focus groups already in February, March timeframe?

  • Will Kim

    Since the bloodbath has started, let me count the dead:

    -1 genius who thinks that his choice of dutch crunch or french roll is the new democracy
    -1 moralist who can’t take it upon him/herself to get off his/her high horse and tell us again about the purge that is R&DE
    -1 delusional goof comparing Ike’s loss to shitty helmets (better than the invisible ones ubiquitous on campus) and shitty professors (as if we don’t have any of those in this premier institution of higher learning…)

    I, like many of my comrades above, firmly believe that ad hominem will inspire intelligent responses…

  • different ’16

    oops, different ’16…

  • snarky

    yeah i’ve seen the comment boxes. maybe get a new pair of glasses? :)

  • Celery

    Yep yep, it was Monday February 24th. I don’t think they’d planned for the cafe to be where Ike’s is at that point, though, because some of the questions were about what location would be best.

  • Guest

    First of all, do not include me in the group protesting this affair. I think, in fact, that protesting this issue would be a waste of my time- the protests will likely not amount to anything, if they do I can free-ride on the efforts of the protesters, and ultimately I have better things to be doing.

    Unlike Matt, though, I’m not going to tell random people what they should or should not be doing with their free time, especially when those people are in full concord with written and natural law.

    I picked that line out because it troubles me. Matt may be on to something, but his delivery at times is conceited to the nth degree. It is lines like that which unnecessarily offend people, for good reason I think.

    And you may not believe that the line I quoted is representative of the substance of the article, but he spends 65 words on that and related thoughts. When you cut out the background exposition, those words amount to roughly 15% of his argument. That to me speaks of substance; perhaps not his primary point, but a significant one nonetheless.

  • LC

    “If you crave Ike’s so dearly and don’t have the money, if it really matters to you that much, then earn some money for yourself. Don’t ruin everyone’s fun because you can’t have something.”

    Ok I was ready to listen to your response and consider it seriously until I read this. You’re right, when I want to get Ike’s I should just…go get money. Because that’s how it happens. Not that I’m spending the money I make from my two jobs on my tuition or anything. Thanks for the brilliant insight.

    ??? Every time I read what you just said I get more angry.

    Also, “First of all, let me humbly suggest that you are assuming these students are not also protesting the alarming prevalence of sexual assault, are not protesting for queer rights, are not also protesting a myriad of more ultimately meaningful issues. That is a questionable assumption based on no fact.”

    While I agree that you can’t say that NONE of the Ike’s protesters are involved in anything more meaningful, think about this – when has an issue gotten THIS much coverage in the Daily, in social media in the Stanford circle, etc? This “issue” has been made more visible than any other during my time at Stanford, and THAT is ridiculous. Not the fact that a protest exists – sure, stand up for what you want, that’s cool – but the fact that THIS is what the Stanford “media” per se has put most of its effort into. As someone who has made a lot of effort to promote and attend other activist activities around campus for the past few years only to be disappointed with the lack of motivation from the student body, this is infuriating.

  • Common Sense

    Yes, it’s strange how Stanford affiliated publications are publicizing things happening at Stanford concerning Stanford.

  • Grant

    I haven’t read such a thoroughly measured and satisfying takedown in a long time. Every paragraph is on point (except the one you said “just go get more money” – but it’s a moot point because Ike’s is hardly expensive). Thanks.

  • Dr. Maysure

    How selfish of you to spend your time posting on here. You should be spending every waking minute of your life trying to cure cancer or end world hunger. Shame on you.