By Mina Shah
Much to the excitement of my internet troll commenters, this is my last column for The Daily. I thus wanted to take some time to reflect on the process of writing these pieces.
It has been a whirlwind three years of writing opinion columns for this publication. In a lot of ways, the world is very much the same place it was when I started writing: People reading tend to care less about international affairs than domestic ones, humans tend not to be empathetic toward people who do not look like them, and the world remains really very broken.
As I go forward into the world outside of this little bubble, I want to leave everyone with a few words of advice, a few last opinions before I leave campus and this column for good.
To the students of this institution: The revolution works in three parts, through yourself, through the people around you and through systems. Keep going in your fight. It is hard to care about the world around you because it hurts. But it isn’t supposed to feel good. That bad feeling reminds you that in our lifetimes, the fight to better the world around us will never be finished. However, we must continue to press on, to make sure that the people who come after us will have less to do than we did.
Care for each other when your friends get tired. We, as Stanford students, are very good at doing things we learn in class: p-sets, papers, projects. We aren’t always so good at doing the things that matter. People will teach you how to be a good friend if you let them. Let them. Your politics of justice and equity are absolutely meaningless unless you care for the people around you in the same way that you care about abstract notions of justice.
Do not get bogged down by the largeness and heaviness of systems. Large scale changes happen when people work together to chip away at inequity one bit at a time. Sometimes the social conditions of the time are more conducive to change than others, which means that if we take this moment to train and better ourselves, we will be ready for the day when the social conditions look different and respond to the pressure that we put on them.
To the alumni who still care about the university and making the world a more just and sustainable place: Continue to leverage your power and resources for the greater good. Do not donate to Stanford as a whole. Better to direct those funds to institutions that actually need the capital, like organizations that do environmental protection work or work on deconstructing the prison industrial complex. Stanford’s annual budget is huge, and its endowment is even greater. While it might be nice to get letters from students thanking you for your donation, if you want your dollars to go as far as possible, give somewhere else.
If you feel like you must donate to Stanford, then donate to the specific spaces that really matter to you. Donating to The Stanford Fund or through the development office means that your money will get lost in the university channels based on where other people think the biggest return on investment can be found. Donate specifically to The Center for African Studies or the Haas Center for Public Service or the DGen office or the individual community centers that actually do the emotional labor of keeping students safe on campus. Then trust those centers enough to let them allocate those funds the way that will benefit their communities the most.
If you don’t have the capacity to donate monetarily, you can still leverage the name of your alma mater to put yourself in a position to have greater influence with regard to making your workplaces and communities more just. And in whatever work that you do, you can use the things that you learned here to make the work itself more critical and self-reflexive.
To the leadership of the university: Do better. Do not just listen passively to the written word coming in through the long-range planning process. Listen actively. Listen when students literally have the microphone, even if they’ve taken it. Do not conflate your situations with those of the underrepresented minority students. If you really care about Jane Stanford’s edict regarding the purpose of the university, actually center the voices of students who have not been centered historically. Listen when students say that their community centers or centers of community are under threat. Listen by reading between the lines when community centers don’t have the resources to craft plans for the long-range planning process. Listen by putting your money where your mouth is.
I am so grateful to so many parts of this institution for allowing me to grow and become the person I am today. But that does not mean I can’t see better futures in which this place does more to support students. All of its students. So let’s do better and go forth and change the world with one another.
Contact Mina Shah at minashah ‘at’ stanford.edu.