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Letter to the Editor: Another student’s look at StanfordNYC

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Dear Editor,

I for one have been rooting for Stanford from the onset in its proposal to build a campus in New York City as I think it presents a tremendous opportunity (“A student’s look at StanfordNYC,” Oct. 27).  Why go to New York City when things seem just fine here in sunny Palo Alto?  This country needs another center for innovation and that is what Stanford does better than any university in the world. It would provide Stanford with new research alignments in industries that don’t exist in the Bay Area and would give students from the home campus access to a whole network of East Coast contacts and new alumni. Maybe we can even start chipping away at that East Coast bias that never seems to allow Stanford to climb above Harvard or Yale in national rankings.

One of the primary concerns about the proposed New York City campus is the hefty price tag: $2.5 billion. However, the Stanford proposal only commits $200 million initially to get the University started on solid financial footing and will pay for the rest through a new fundraising initiative. None of Stanford’s home campus proposals or generous financial aid are put in jeopardy though this investment. Why not spend more on improving financial aid for undergraduates? If you want to improve access to a Stanford education for more of the world’s best and brightest, what better way than to provide more spots for graduate students? StanfordNYC will likely pay for itself many times over through an influx of new donors, industry collaborations and federal research grants that will come from building a world class research university in New York City.

Some fear that allowing StanfordNYC to operate as its own degree-granting institution would lead to a devaluation of the Stanford degree. President Hennessy has made it expressly clear that he expects the new campus to have the same high standards when it comes to admitting students as well as hiring faculty. We should not worry about a brain drain on the home campus.  There is a certain group of faculty, including some of the brightest minds in the world, which we can now recruit because living on the East Coast or in a big city is so important to them. And if we can get the best students in the world to come to Palo Alto (not exactly the world’s cultural hotbed), I’m pretty sure we can convince them to come to New York. Everyone already has a unique Stanford experience, but what the degree represents is a certain standard of academic excellence. If they are taking the same classes and tests as us, why can’t we be okay with just accepting that their Stanford experience will be different as well?

Should the student body or alumni network have been included more in the decision making process? Probably. But that doesn’t mean the idea is wrong. Stanford has always been about taking risks and changing the world.  StanfordNYC is an opportunity to do just that, which may not come again, and we should not let it pass us by.

Scott Himmelberger ’15
Ph.D. Candidate in Materials Science and Engineering