At the start of last week, I sent a few e-mail lists an invitation for students to anonymously vent their biggest Stanford-related frustrations by listing them on a Google Doc. There were over 100 individual responses (over 120 if you include the trolls). From what I read, students’ complaints seem to have fallen into a few big categories:
Lack of diversity
One student appeared to capture many others’ thoughts with the concise response, “Stanford is repressive of discussions about class and socioeconomic status.” Students are frustrated with what passes for the norm at Stanford, and many spoke of hiding their beliefs and backgrounds so as to avoid persecution. Those who feel most antagonized seem to be low-income students, Christians, those with conservative viewpoints and students who aren’t attracted to alcohol and the college party culture.
Some students hate the quarter system. Some think, “academic advising is a total joke.” Engineers wish they had more time to take classes outside of engineering. “Financial aid really hurts a large portion of middle class students.” IHUM has both good and bad points.
Many, many students wish alcohol wasn’t such a staple of undergrad life. Palo Alto and Stanford are too expensive, and San Francisco is much less accessible than Stanford would like ProFros to think. There needs to be a central hang-out location on campus; the “student center sucks/almost does not exist.” Also, “the dating sucks.”
“I’m tired of kids who know how to test well, but have forgotten how to learn,” is a feeling echoed by many. Pre-meds in particular have gotten a bad rep: “Medicine is a hallowed profession. Treat it like a privilege, not a game.” And one respondent said Stanford students “only care about the world when it will help them get fellowships & scholarships, just like all those clubs they joined in high school.”
Attitudes toward life
This was the biggest section; it seemed many students think Stanford kids are too “success”-driven and not relationship-driven enough, and then those same Stanford kids complain about feeling lonely. The “Stanford Duck Syndrome” and “faking your feelings” were also mentioned a great deal, as were “ego” and “elitism.” Also, according to a few respondents, students aren’t activist enough: “Whatever happened to protests?”
At CAPS, there’s “a lack of availability of appointments [and] ineffectiveness of said appointments.” At Vaden, “if you’re not an athlete, you don’t matter.” And the Bridge “has good ideas but fails at making people feel better<\p>.<\p>.<\p>.<\p>”
“For smart people, we ride bikes like idiots.” Also, “lighting around campus sucks,” as does parking.
Several students want 24-hour food, several want cheaper food, several want more options and the list goes on.
There were complaints of poor hygiene and students disrespecting custodial staff (“What, are you used to having a maid or something?”). Several were disappointed with the noisy party culture ingrained in their dorms and poor leadership by ResEd staff. A few were angry they had never gotten a single.
And so on. You can imagine that this article is a pretty small nutshell to try to contain the emotion of a hundred responses.
So why’d I set this thing up in the first place?
Well, in fact, I think this place is pretty great. I’d have left if there weren’t something more than career prospects keeping me here. Let’s let one of the responses speak for me: “I do have to say for all of the complaining I’ve done in an earlier post, I would not have changed a thing when deciding to come to Stanford if I could go back in time.”
But could Stanford be better? Absolutely, just like everything and everyone else. My big frustration is hearing so many students having the exact same conversations about what’s not working, and then seeing so few of them actually do anything about it — they’re too preoccupied, or shy, or risk-averse. So I thought, “hey, everyone whining separately isn’t accomplishing anything. Maybe everyone whining together will.”
No, a Google Doc won’t revolutionize this University. And I certainly don’t have any big “Plan for Enacting Change.” All I can really hope from this thing is that a lot of people will see it, it’ll show some people what others are thinking and it’ll get some people talking. And from what the history books tell me, it’s “getting people talking” that’s always made the world turn.
You can see all the responses for yourself at http://bit.ly/ventstanford.
What about Stanford drives you nuts? Tell Robin at firstname.lastname@example.org.