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Letter from the Editor: Story on list of courses

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67 thoughts on “Letter from the Editor: Story on list of courses

  1. I’m am more appalled at the knee-jerk reaction from people criticizing the Daily, without actually:
    1) Reading the article in its entirety
    2) Realizing that the parts in the article that are calling the list “easy” are quotes from people
    3) Stating that this is poor journalism. Granted, I don’t know the specifics of the interviews and whether they or not they were taken out of context or changed, but this is the type of articles the Daily should be publishing, rather than the incredible amount of opinion columns.

  2. “Many of the comments I have heard since Wednesday’s story was published relate to the article’s “damaging” effects on the University. I want to stress that, as an independent publication, we have a responsibility to report on what we deem valuable to the Stanford community, even if the implications of that reporting are disheartening.”

    The “report” in question is “disheartening” because it is full of lies, misquotations, presents extremely bad tone, lacks factual data, and through reports from interviewees, borders on unethical journalism.

    Your responsibility as editor in chief to see through this sort of bad writing. If you had that ability, you would see that the article is not “valuable to the Stanford community”, but rather a piece of hurtful sensationalistic garbage that has caused irrefutable damage.

  3. “Rather, I question the reasoning behind Stanford’s academic advisers to offer the list of courses for at least a decade when I know that student-athletes are able to utilize available tools — Explore Courses, CourseRank, Axess and, in the past, published time schedules — to design their course schedules.”

    So you are saying that the reason that you thought this article was deemed valuable to the Stanford community is because someone printed out a list in paper form instead of directing students to a website. The value of the article is to prove that there was a bad advisor somewhere? That is a bunch of crap and you know it. You, just as the writers, were looking to uncover some “big secret” that instead turn into a really ugly situation.

  4. If you actually read his letter, you would realize he was not involved in the production of the story. People need to calm down with these inflammatory remarks, they are getting ridiculous.

  5. Did I say that he was involved in the production? No. However, as editor-in-chief he is still looking to make his paper the best/most read/most fascinating he can by picking the right articles, while still keeping journalistic integrity. He failed at the latter on the expense of student athletes.

  6. If you want to be considered a serious EiF for future employment you should demand a retraction and excuse by the authors, which a lot of the people interviewed for the article have demanded.

  7. Retract 2,

    Amen to that. Yeah, Stanford Daily, let’s do an investigative report on the data evidence: you owe the student athletes that–responsible reporting.

  8. Yo Zach –


    “We have a responsibility to report on what we deem valuable to the Stanford community, even if the implications of that reporting are disheartening.”

    You think that article was “valuable” to the Stanford community? Not only was it chock-full of exaggerations and misquotes, it also wasn’t – in its original form – newsworthy. Student athletes get more help than other students academically. That was the basis of the story. Well, yeah. And?

    Student athletes at Stanford are a major part of what makes the university a world renown powerhouse. Stanford actually allots very few academic benefits to athletes compared to most of the other elite universities in the country. One of the primary reasons it is is a tremendous challenge and an even bigger accomplishment when our athletic teams are successful is because of the high academic expectations we have for our athletes.

    The writers didn’t have to do employ any kind of “investigative journalism” (let alone exaggeration and misquotation) to find out that athletes have a few more resources at their hands than other students. That is a commonly known fact. It is generally accepted because we love our athletes for what they do, and we know that at Stanford they are also some of the brightest, most well-rounded people on the planet.

    You, the writers, and whoever else supports the grossly exaggerated, unnecessarily inflammatory article have insulted the entire body of student athletes at Stanford, the people who make Stanford what it is.

    Honestly, I haven’t picked up The Daily since first quarter freshman year when I didn’t know any better. You guys are always misquoting people regarding sporting events and other issues, and the writing is generally pretty terrible in style and composition. The only reason why this story is important is because you crossed a line and artificially made this “news” inflammatory enough to be picked up by other networks that actually matter. That doesn’t take away from the fact that you based it on bending the facts and making it seem like there’s a controversy when there is not.

    If you really want to be a journalist or an “Editor in Chief,” get tougher with your writers. Demand that they provide actual evidence regarding controversial issues, and that they don’t quote themselves for “stories” like these.

    Have another try at your pathetic response to the article. We deserve better.

  9. 1. “Investigative Reporting”? Really?
    2. It’s illegal to record someone without permission in the state of California.
    3. It’s unethical to misquote or mislead interviewees.

  10. Zach,

    I have no problem with an article about the list in question. I do have a problem, however, with the quality of reporting– namely, the misquotations. At least two people quoted in the article say they were misquoted, and one said that he had no idea he was being interviewed.

    I also have a problem with you saying that you’re an independent organization when you get a ridiculous amount of money from Special Fees.

  11. Was the story “a piece of hurtful sensationalistic garbage that has caused irrefutable damage.”? Hardly. Was it poorly written leaving more questions than answers? Absolutely. I agree with those above, particularly Retract 2, calling upon the Daily to perform its obligation to the community and follow-up with some real journalism about the history and origin of “the List,” some objective analysis of the academic rigor of the selected courses, and their overall impact on the academic achievement of Stanford student-athletes.

  12. So you’re saying the point of the story was to expose the fact that the AARC printed a list of information which could be found by the general population elsewhere (you acknowledge that Course Rank exists)? And that it’s just such an unfair advantage to athletes that they get a list of classes that might fit their practice schedule? Other than the fact that it’s not particularly environmentally friendly, that’s a completely inane story. Combined with the fact that the journalism was allegedly highly unethical and the reporters are allegedly in violation of the Fundamental Standard, I’d say that the article was about the farthest from valuable to the Stanford community as possible. And the problem with the story is not the “damage” to Stanford. It’s that, in the form it has been republished by the national press, it has humiliated Stanford athletes and made us look like we don’t belong at Stanford. Since we have very slight advantages compared to the general student body, and advantages that are far less that students at all but the Ivy League schools, this is highly untrue. National perception matters for us, as well. How do you think potential employer’s perceptions of us might have changed if they just saw the sensational Yahoo! News headline? It is personally damaging for the student-athlete population at this point. You have hurt individuals, not just the institution.

  13. I do not disagree with the issue being looked into but the way it was researched and reported is absolutely ridiculous. Not only did the reporters hide recording devices but they horribly misquoted or even made up segments of the story. See the email sent below from Donald Barr who appeared to have included one of the most powerful supports for the article. As editor you should’ve been more involved in this and the Daily shouldn’t be able to distance itself from it because it was published and picked up from your front page on the site. Judging by response from the community outside of these comments, it appears that just as much disappointment/outrage is directed at the Daily as is at these reporters. Good luck distancing yourself more. Again, this is an email being sent around to show the terrible reporting of the authors.

    Dear Ryan and Julie,

    I want you to know that I was shocked and deeply offended in reading a news story in which you egregiously misquoted me. I must ask that you immediately retract your story, and notify all those who have quoted it of your error.

    During the brief interview one of you had with me during my office hours, I explained that I, as other faculty, sometimes accommodate student-athletes’ off-campus competition schedules by arranging with the coaching staff for the proctoring of examinations. As I explained to you, we also do this for other students involved in certain types of extracurricular activities.

    At no point during our brief conversation did I discuss the University’s policies towards providing reasonable accommodation for students with disabilities. Neither did I compare the accommodations provided for athletes to the accommodations provided for students with disabilities. It is for this reason that I request that you immediately retract your story, and publicly correct your error. Failure to do would, I believe, violate core ethical principles of journalism.

    I am copying Mark Katches on this message. As the instructor in the course for which you wrote your story, I believe he shares in the responsibility for correcting the error.

    As an additional concern, the student who interviewed me never raised the issue of the academic rigor of my course. Nevertheless the published article implies that course grading is lenient. I believe the academic rigor of the course is reflected in its selection by the University as meeting the General Education Requirement in Education for Citizenship/American Cultures. In addition, at the request of a national publisher, I have written a textbook covering the material covered in the course. That text is in use at colleges and universities throughout the country.

    Donald Barr, MD, PhD
    Associate Professor (Teaching), Department of Pediatrics

  14. Who is to say that Donald Barr isn’t covering his ass for something said offhand that came across poorly when put in print that he didn’t know was being recorded. I know misquoting happens, but both of these writers are extremely experienced (one contributes to the NY Times, so “real journalists” clearly find his work impressive; both have worked at media outlets outside the Daily) and would never CREATE a quote out of nothing.

  15. Independent means you can make up quotes, right? It’s nice to know that as an alum that the Daily still makes up (or just messes up) quotes from “sources” to make it’s articles seem well researched. Although this was not written by Daily writers, isn’t it the editors job to determine whether an article he prints is one that is well researched and reported, and not a piece of tabloid trash?

  16. Can we also remember that the article wasn’t written by The Daily (although yes, a lot of the students in the class are in fact Daily writers) but by a class? Shouldn’t we also be blaming Mark Katches for approving of what many of you see as a flawed article?

  17. Dear Zach,

    Your reply to the outrageous article published yesterday is like rubbing salt in the wound. Not only are the facts not true, but the article is very damaging not only to the student athlete community, but the Stanford community in general.

    For example, yesterday I was very nervous about a big job interview I had and did not really pay too much attention to the article. However, you can imagine my anger and outrage when my potential future employer asked me about yesterday’s article. I was shocked and very upset. The fact that my potential future employer (a very large company, by the way) has to ask me about whether or not I am taking “easy” classes because I am an athlete and perhaps that is why I have a good GPA is SO INSULTING! So, I just hope you know the impact you have had on your fellow Stanford classmates by publishing this untrue article. Good job.

    Furthermore, I can’t believe the authors would misquote not only fellow students, but an associate professor. I hope you know the above email from Donald Barr is going around campus chat lists like wildfire… so that will look great for the Daily’s credibility.

    One more thing, the basis of your article being that this “list” is only for athletes is completely untrue! Did the Daily or Ryan or Amy even check the validity of Miriam Marks’ quote? Please excuse me, but Miriam’s quote is completely untrue. In fact, anyone can go to the AARC and study there, use the computers, and even take “the list”. The fact that she says the AARC staff would not give her the article because shes not an athlete and therefore doesn’t need it is not true.

    In fact, my roommate, who is NOT an athlete, has even gone into the AARC in past quarters and picked up the “list” and taken several classes off it. I did not tell her about said list, because I myself have never even utilized it. She merely heard about it from other people (non-athletes) and went and got a copy for herself.

    Thanks for ruining my reputation, and potentially, my job prospects.

  18. the “list” doesn’t have any secrets, no easy A’s, and is basically a printed out version of coursework. It’s simply an easy reference guide for helping schedule classes. The two authors of the article need to realize that if they had a printer, they could’ve made their own (possibly even easier) class list. The abc interview makes the Stanford daily look like a bunch of whiny little brats. Grow up and don’t worry about how other people schedule their classes.

  19. Oh Zach-

    Can you comment on the message sent to the stanford daily writers from Stanford prof Donald Barr?….the one about how he says he was severely misquoted and demands a public apology


  20. how can you stand behind an article when almost every single person quoted in it has asked to be removed from it? Not just the “easy”-A athletes, but professors have written explicitly that they have been misquoted. I understand that you support the message of the article, which I don’t agree with either, but the quality is amateur at best.

    Good luck getting special fee’s.

  21. I personally have lost confidence in anything the Daily writes about and know that many other students now feel the same way.I will not so much as bother to even glance at a copy of the Stanford Daily anymore.

  22. What cowardice – to stand by and even encourage journalistic deceit rather than to admit fault. Your letter proves that irresponsibility runs deep at The Daily. Failure to retract the article will absolutely devastate what little respect the paper merited before this disgrace. You’ve turned a 120-yr mission into nothing more than a farce. Find some humility. If I were you, I’d start asking some Stanford athletes about what that means.

  23. Yes, it was an attack on Stanford student athletes! We’re not asking for sympathy, simply understanding. If you had a better knowledge of the life of a Stanford student-athlete, this article would never have been published or even considered news. The list is a resource for athletes just like the lists given by academic directors to students of various majors. IT IS NOT AN EASY CLASS LIST! The course list covers a broad spectrum of classes that appeal to the liberal arts nature of Stanford University as a whole. And there is NOT a story here. Isn’t the number one rule of journalism to remain objective and hear both sides of the story? During your “investigation”, you misquoted countless sources and have misrepresented Stanford student-athletes. As Stanford students, it is appalling that other Stanford students would attack their own peers on false grounds.


    Classes such as Social Dance and Beginning to Improv cannot boost your GPA because they are Pass/Fail.

    “Easy” classes in the past have included: Econ1A, Math 51, PS114S, Weather & Storms, and History of Nuclear Weapons.

    Public Speaking is preferenced to Engineering majors.

    Athletes are held to the same standards for admissions and graduation.

    Sorry, gotta end this message. We’re about to board our flight for the Pac10 Tournament. Missing two days of school, but not two days of work.


  24. Even without all of the misquotes and misrepresentations, this is LAME guys. Come ON. Writing a widely syndicated article should not come at the expense of misrepresenting Stanford athletes on a national scale. Have a little integrity.
    Also FAIL on identifying your audience. If you knew the audience was outside of Stanford, you should have put in A LOT more context. What is this, the review??

  25. Universities such as Ohio State, USC, and Auburn treat their athletes very well. Many of our amazing athletes could have gone to any of those schools but they picked Stanford because they value academics. Believe me, if their priority was joining NFL after graduation, they would not have picked Stanford. The Stanford students athletes take pride in the fact that their University excel in both academics and athletics and try their best to represent their school well Needless to say, It is very disheartening to see them treated like this!!!

  26. i feel so bad for student athletes. they clearly work so much harder than the rest of us and receive no recognition. ever.

  27. As a Stanford alum who was a student-athlete and engineering major I agree with all the above comments that regardless of the intent of the article or how the editor in chief perceived it, the editor in chief should be able to recognize others’ reactions and potential controversies this article has now brought upon student-athletes and the University (this isn’t just a Stanford only debate anymore, this story was run on ESPN’s online website as well sparking national debate). My main concern is that if you can’t prove you had the interviewees permission to quote them or that you didn’t take their quotes out of context when they said you did, a retract and public apology should be made to those damaged by this article (students, alumnae, academic advisors, athletes, and professors).

  28. Knowing him well, it’s pretty sad and ironic that Zach Zimmerman, of all people, is under fire for giving Stanford athletes and Stanford Athletics a bad name. Before becoming Editor in Chief, he served as a Desk Editor and then the Managing Editor of the Sports section and made a commitment to bettering The Daily’s coverage of our school’s many successful teams. I think that most on this thread would be hard pressed to find a more knowledgeable and ardent Stanford sports fan. If you get the chance, read some of his sports columns from the past two years. Many of them are extremely complimentary of Stanford Athletics, often encouraging fellow students and Stanford community members to rally behind our teams, and well written to the extent that they were linked by Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller and noticed by other notable collegiate sports writers. He isn’t trying to take down the athletic department in order to get noticed by larger media outlets; he, like several other news outlets, received a story that was relevant to campus life and seemingly worthy of publication – like it or not, the administration created suspicion perhaps where suspicion was not due. However, had he turned down the story, those other outlets still would have published it. To place the blame for the national media attention on The Daily is absurd – The Chronicle and The San Jose Mercury News both ran the story on the same day; they did not follow The Daily’s lead.

    Secondly, to all of those threatening to deny Special Fees to The Daily: Why? Because you disagree with one quasi-controversial article that wasn’t even a product of this newspaper? Just like many of the athletes rightfully take great pride in being a student-athlete here, The Daily, too, is an important extracurricular activity to a staff of more than 100 editors and writers. Though you may find this comparison laughable, many of the student-journalists at The Daily commit similarly extensive hours to their job at the paper, and for at least some, The Daily is the foundation for a future career in journalism, or simply an invaluable opportunity to better one’s writing, try a hand at reporting, or be plugged into the university’s happenings. Though you may be upset with this piece, there are many things that The Daily does do well and is unique for doing: covering the majority of on campus events, from guest speakers to the arts; providing the most extensive coverage of some of the less big name (for lack of better phrase?) sports; giving the community a forum to debate campus issues and policies; and so on. Please don’t punish an entire community of students, the vast majority of whom had nothing to do with this piece, because of one article.

  29. The point isn’t that a story that sheds a negative light on Stanford Athletics was printed in the Daily, it’s that the article is misleading people into an inappropriately negative opinion of Stanford athletes. The simple fact is that classes such as Econ 1A are not “chock-full of athletes.” The writers, being Stanford students, knew this and failed to provide proper context.

    I would have no problem with the Daily if it uncovered major football violations that gave Stanford huge sanctions for years. In this case, they misled the reading public.

  30. Like many students, I am tremendously embarrassed by the article promulgating blatantly false information by using quotations that were collected in deeply unethical and unprofessional ways. That the editor in chief would come out in support of this damaging and poorly written an article is a sad reflection on the new low the Daily has reached. I would wholeheartedly support a movement to prevent the Daily from receiving Special Fees, not to punish the many good people who are affiliated with the Daily, but to punish the leadership team, who apparently has lost all respect for journalistic integrity. This article is far from the only example of poor journalism from the Daily, but simply the clearest and most damaging example of it.

  31. Zach, there’s a time in life when you need to step up and be a man, because you will have to live with your decision for the rest of your life. Supporting this garbage is pathetic, and if you really did some soul searching you would realize that you’re at fork in the road, and you’re taking the low road. Misquoting, mischaractarazing, and ignoring context with respect to statements obtained through questionable means is not defensible, and you need to call this article what it is. Complete trash with no merit.

  32. Disappointed,

    Your editor’s reaction to the article published yesterday is at issue here, regardless of how great you think his resume is. Frankly, whatever “notice” he received in the past should pale beside the disappointment most of the Stanford student body, alums, and faculty feel.

    Students pay directly for special fees. It’s not some gift everyone’s decided to give students with an interest in journalism. Those of us who feel like our money’s been wasted or put to use in such a way that actually harms us have every right to demand a refund. I know that I will.

  33. go away. all of your (many) comments on these articles have been “complete trash with no merit.” 1. let’s calm on the hyperbole.. 2. do you even go here? hate to break it to you, but i really don’t think that this is a life-altering decision on behalf of the editor. if anything, he’ll know that he both addressed and stood up for something that he believed in despite the attempted bullying of countless anonymous cyber tough guys, and kept the story up even though it went against the popular opinion.

  34. Hey Zachman,

    do the right thing or get out of here, buddy. I’ve long been thinking about the Daily’s Special Fees. They really need to go.. I see a Boycott Daily facebook group in the making here.

  35. Even reading this an outsider (non Stanford affiliate) I cannot but agree with most of the comments here. This, at a glance, seems like a poorly handled situation by the Stanford Daily staff and likewise poorly written follow-up by their editor-in-chief.

  36. I guess the editor-in-chief at the Stanford Daily should not be expected to do what a normal editor-in-chief is suppose to do: take responsibility. But it’s true, journalistic integrity has never really been the Daily’s cup of tea. Disappointing to see.

  37. Expository? Do you really think the ethos of the original article is expository in nature? I disagree.

  38. Zach, please never write another sports-related column or article. I hope you never try to do a piece on me or my fellow teammates. You have clearly shown you do not respect nor care for Stanford Athletes.

  39. @ re: arianna says

    if anything, he’ll know that he both addressed and stood up for something that he believed.

    What did he believe? Did he actually believe that most athletes got good GPAs because of this so called easy class list? Are these so called easy classes only available to athletes to take? If not, why pick on the athletes only? If there are these many courses at Stanford that give easy As and anybody can take it, the grades at Stanford must be inflated!!!

  40. It is one thing for outsiders to think the grades at Stanford is inflated for whatever reason but for some Stanford students to think their fellow students’ grade are inflated because the particular group has access to a piece of paper that lists easy courses is ridiculous. I have heard of professors favoring athletes or school administrations and coaches pressuring professors to pass the athletes. But this is none of those. Let’s see. Everyone at Stanford is allowed to take these courses on the list. The professors who teach these courses give easy As but treat everyone in the class equally, meaning anybody who are enrolled in these easy classes can get easy As. How about publish the names all the students, athletes and non athletes, who took these courses, so that we know whose grades are inflated? At least the athletes have an excuse why they needed to take few easy courses. What is the excuse for the non-athletes? That they had to attend important club meetings?

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