Two weeks ago, The Stanford Review Editorial Board published a set of demands that some have claimed is satirical. My own reading of the demands begins with that charitable perspective — though I would like to emphasize how generous that is on my part. The demands were published before April 1, April Fool’s Day. The demands do not include any indication that the piece is satirical like The Stanford Daily’s own April Fool’s Day pieces. The Stanford Review does not publish satirical pieces often (or ever), and I have no recollection of previous April Fool’s Day pranks. If we look at Demand #15, we should expect the Stanford Review Editorial Board to be at Buffalo Wild Wings on Friday, April 8. That demand is so ridiculous that I have rationalized it, and the larger piece, as a joke. Others have also interpreted it as a joke and have then wondered how anyone could take the demands seriously. Before anyone is accused of hypersensitivity, I request that the above be evidence be considered in explaining why someone may have taken the demands seriously.
My intention in writing this piece is to highlight the intolerance displayed in the first of the Editorial Board’s demands: “1. WE DEMAND that Stanford builds a wall around El Centro Chicano, and makes MEChA pay for it.” (The Editorial Board, “The Stanford Review Demands Change”). This demand merits attention because it detracts rhetorically from the rest of the piece. It is so out of place that its presentation cannot be justified as a piece of satire. Therefore, Demand #1’s imitation of a racist constitutes an act of intolerance.
The Editorial Board’s demands come in the wake of Who’s Teaching Us’s published demands and similar moves by activists across U.S. universities. Elliot Kaufman and Harry Elliott, in “Who’s Teaching Us, Unmasked”, say that WTU’s (leaked) demands “resemble the list of a child who used his first wish from a genie on ‘unlimited wishes’ – and then wrote a rambling and disconnected sequence of demands before running out of ideas”. Clearly, writers at The Stanford Review do not think very highly of WTU’s demands. Perhaps to continue the criticism of WTU, the Editorial Board chooses to satirize the rhetoric used by extremely politically correct activists in its demands. The activist perspective is mostly solid, with the exception of Demand #1, Trump is the opposite of a politically correct activist, and Demand #14, no activist has argued that “Stanford bans hard alcohol in dorms”.
Demand #1 diverges from the otherwise consistent perspective of the piece. Some will argue it belongs because it advances the idea that the demands are ridiculous. If this is true, then the Editorial Board is comprised of poor writers, because this demand both detracts from the critique of activist rhetoric that dominates, and poorly emphasizes that the piece is nonsense. Take Demand #15: Meeting at Buffalo Wild Wings is ridiculous, does not stray with the perspective of the piece, and satirizes unreasonable demands. Had Demand #1 been phrased as “WE DEMAND that Stanford builds a wall around Starbucks, and makes Starbucks pay for it. Starbucks does not engage in fair frappuccino trade!” then the ridiculousness of the demand would have stuck out and the critique of activist rhetoric been apparent.
“But this is satire!” someone else will proclaim, arguing that Demand #1 satirizes Trump and is therefore appropriate. This might actually be a reasonable assertion, had other demands also been written from Trump’s perspective. But unlike George Lopez and Saturday Night Live (SNL) who have satirized Trump, the Editorial Board does not sustain any criticism of Trump or employ his rhetoric to criticize anything else. Donaldo Trumpez, played by George Lopez, simultaneously criticizes the U.S.’s hypocrisy in relations with Mexico and Trump’s rhetoric. SNL highlights Jeb Bush’s and Donald Trump’s poor debate skills. Trump’s rhetoric in Demand #1 is put to no such productive use and is unnecessary. Calling Demand #1 an intelligent example of satire is a stretch.
Those still defending the presence of Demand #1 might propose that it is responding to racist accusations from activist groups, such as MEChA de Stanford. Instead of addressing any real examples of MEChA’s rhetoric, the Editorial Board focuses Demand #1 on MEChA’s racial composition, as MEChA is a Latino activist group. This is not an intellectual discussion by any means. The Editorial Board is employing racist rhetoric used against Latinos — to target Latinos. It is not possible to forgive this as an unfortunate accident either. Both the mention of “El Centro Chicano” (in reality named El Centro Chicano y Latino), a Latino community center where Latinos congregate, organize, de-stress, and socialize, and MEChA, a Latino organization, demonstrate intent to target Latinos with Trump’s rhetoric. In addition, El Centro Chicano y Latino has not produced any statements or engaged in any action against The Stanford Review that might have provoked the Editorial Board to mention it in its demands. All El Centro Chicano y Latino is guilty of is serving the Latino community.
Stanford’s Acts of Intolerance Protocol states that “An act of intolerance is defined as conduct that adversely and unfairly targets an individual or group on the basis of one or more of the following actual or perceived characteristics: gender or gender identity, race or ethnicity, disability…” (Stanford Student Affairs, “Acts of Intolerance Protocol”). Demand #1 is not satire, does not engage in academic discussion, and intentionally targets the Latino community. I therefore believe it fits the above definition and constitutes an Act of Intolerance. To begin the reporting procedure, I demand that the Stanford Review investigate the writing of “The Stanford Review Demands Change” and identify the individuals responsible for Demand #1. I also suggest that The Stanford Review dismiss the writers responsible and hold accountable the other writers of the Editorial Board for negligence. Racism isn’t a joke, and I would be relieved if the Editorial Board approached racism with more intelligence.
— Julian Pena
Contact Julian Pena at julianp ‘at’ stanford.edu.