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Editorial Board: Best of the Year

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With the summer fast approaching, we here at the Daily wanted to take the time to look back at this year’s most important stories and point out some trends we’ve noticed about campus life. From the recent admissions scandal, to crises facing the grad student population, to GUP protests and long-range planning reports, this has been a hectic year for the Stanford community. We’ve been there every step of the way making sure that the story gets told.

This has been a particularly tough year for student journalism on campus, with Stanford Student Enterprises and the Senate slashing our operating budget and an overall decreased publication presence coming from our peer publications, such as Stanford Politics. It is with this in mind that we want to highlight the most salient issues covered by our writers throughout the year, to show the best of what a student-run newspaper can do. We hope that you enjoy their work as much as we did, but we also hope you take to heart the valuable lessons they contain — and yes, that includes our satirical pieces.

Thank you,

Editorial Board of the Stanford Daily’s Volume 255

ADMISSIONS SCANDAL:

The largest college cheating case ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice shook the campus community in March as Stanford’s head sailing coach was fired for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, prompting the University to enact policy changes to its athletic recruitment protocol. The scandal prompted a wave of scrutiny as the Department of Education launched a federal investigation, students raised a (now dropped) class action lawsuit against Stanford and other implicated universities, and a flurry of Opinions pieces dissected various aspects of the case. The scandal reached a boiling point with the expulsion of Yusi Zhao, a former sophomore whose family paid Rick Singer, the mastermind at the center of the scheme, $6.5 million to guarantee her admission to Stanford under falsified sailing credentials.

RESEARCH:

Stanford’s research efforts repeatedly came under scrutiny this year on the back of a number of controversies.

In February, the University announced that it was suspending all research activities with Chinese electronics giant Huawei, amidst growing concerns over the company’s reported surveillance techniques and ties to the Chinese government. Artificial intelligence and engineering programs “Established a moratorium on new engagements, gifts, affiliate membership fees and other support from Huawei.”

Other advocates called for similar actions to be applied toward research efforts associated with the government of Saudi Arabia. Outrage over the Saudis’ actions in Yemen and killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi stoked ethical concerns over continued relations with the beleaguered Middle Eastern state.

And finally, Stanford was pressured to probe the role of current faculty in aiding the research of He Jiankui, a Chinese bioengineer and former Stanford post-doctoral fellow who elicited international uproar when he announced the creation of the world’s first ever gene-edited babies. The New York Times reported that Dr. Stephen Quake, an applied physics professor, was aware of the project and maintaining correspondence with Jiankui.

2020:

The 2020 democratic primary will feature an uncharacteristically large smattering of Stanford alums and affiliates, with Senator Cory Booker ’91, M.A. ’92, and former Mayor Julian Castro ’96, both running for president. In February, Katie Keller ’19 and Berber Jin ’20 wrote a fantastic piece, chronicling the growth of presidential hopeful and former Daily columnist Cory Booker throughout his Stanford career. This was followed by a piece that relied on interviews with Booker’s former classmates and co-workers to see how he’s changed over the years. In late March, Julian Castro even visited Stanford campus to show solidarity with campus workers ahead of their negotiations with the University for greater pay and better work conditions. And Dylan Grosz ’20 used data visualization to back his prediction of a longer election cycle in 2020.

GRAD STUDENT AFFORDABILITY:

A spate of news coverage on the graduate student affordability crisis sparked conversations across all corners of campus, from the Graduate Student Council to the Stanford Solidarity Network to the Faculty Senate. News of graduate students foraging for food from campus trees and struggling with homelessness raised questions of whether University support and stipends are adequate for graduate students who may have to support families or who face work restrictions set by international visas.

RESIDENTIAL LIFE:

One recurring theme in campus controversies over the course of this year was ongoing debates over the present and future of Stanford residential life. At the beginning of the year, a new set of more restrictive alcohol policies for on-campus housing were announced, which many believed put an unfair burden on student residential staff. These concerns were echoed by broader fears over what some see as a declining Stanford social scene, a point made especially relevant by the controversial unhousing and subsequent re-housing of both Theta Delta Chi and the Outdoor House. Of further note was the matter of unequal pay for different student staff positions and the renaming of the Serra dorm, now known as the Sally Ride dorm.

The year also marked a turning point for Stanford’s long-range planning initiative, with the announcement of the school’s application for a new General Use Permit and subsequent ire from activist groups, most notably SCoPE 2035. And in Spring quarter, the ResX plannign committee released its long-awaited recommendations for the future of on-campus housing, which included plans to replace the current draw system with a “neighborhoods” model to be implemented over the course of the next 15 years.

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION:

2018-2019 has had its fair share of free expression debates on campus. The invitation of controversial speakers such as Eli Valley and Dinesh D’Souza have spurred university-wide conversations about what counts as productive discourse in our academic context. What exactly does equality of access for ideas look like in a university environment? Who is to judge which student groups should be allowed to invite like-minded speakers? Starting this year, the ASSU Executives have hired an “academic freedom director” to help answer these questions. Their initially proposed solution was to place speech disclaimers on the public fliers of student groups receiving ASSU support. While this year’s Senate rejected the idea, we here at the Daily hope to never see the day when our funding, or the funding of our peers, be contingent on the placement of warning labels on our pages. With that in mind, we look forward to seeing a continued commitment by the University to work with us and the ASSU on safeguarding free expression.

MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS:

The suicides of two graduate students shed a somber light on the graduate student mental health crisis on campus this past year. Students identified a lack of adequate mental health care, pressure-laden advisor-student relationships, and a toxic work culture as a few main drivers behind the crisis.

ARTS:

This has been a volume filled with exciting news in the world of arts, from Kali Uchis performing at Frost, with opener Jorja Smith, to an in-depth profile of Gabriel Townsell, also known by his stage name VII, a student-athlete and student opener at Frost — held for the first time in three years at the newly-renovated Frost Amphitheater. Vol. 255’s Arts & Life section also had many field days documenting the iconic, if not slightly disappointing, final season of Game of Thrones. And who could forget the fascinating review of Neil Gaiman’s masterclass by Shana Hadi and Claire Francis or the touching and powerful feature on the art and struggles of ballet dancers Vaslav Nijinsky and Rudolf Nureyev, written by Amir Abou-Jaoude.  

SPORTS:

In this year alone, Stanford has captured seven separate national titles and multiple other top-four finishes at national competitions. The only other time a school has accomplished this feat was in the ’96 – ’97 academic year — and it was Stanford that set that original record. Comprehensive wins in Women’s Swimming and Diving, Women’s Water Polo, Women’s Tennis, Men’s Gymnastics, Women’s Volleyball, Men’s Golf and Women’s Lightweight Rowing have brought Stanford’s athletics program to its astonishing 125 national titles — and that’s not even counting the upcoming national championship games happening this month.

These records were made in terms of team championships alone, but do not even begin to cover the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of individual awards and championships Stanford athletes have contributed to the program. As of April 21, Stanford athletes have collected 522 individual titles in its program history — over 100 titles more than the second-highest institution.

It’s interesting to note that one of Stanford’s most successful seasons comes in spite of a wave of coaching turnover and a connection to the college admissions scandal. Stanford Athletics was shaken by the news of sailing coach John Vandemoer’s complicity in the college admissions scandal, the men’s rowing head coach retired in the middle of their season, the men’s swimming and diving head coach announced his retirement earlier this quarter with no public explanation, and Sports Performance Director Shannon Turley was suspended and subsequently fired. And yet, the sailing team proved its merit just weeks after the scandal with a top-four finish in a national competition; Abrahm Devine ’19 still brought home an individual NCAA championship for men’s swimming and diving. Regardless of its leadership, Stanford Athletics has proven its grit in even the toughest of circumstances.

SATIRE:

In February, The Daily launched its new Satire column, occasionally prompting alarm from community members who mistook the satire pieces for news, and from the Flipside, which feared losing its market share in campus lampoonery. One particularly notable moment: residents of BOB mistakenly believed Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne was running for U.S. president. Other notable headlines from this year include: “Netflix renews ‘Real Housewives of the ASSU’” and “Marguerite to become complex system of high-speed rails.”

Contact the Editorial Board at opinions ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

Editorials represent the views of The Stanford Daily, an independent newspaper serving Stanford and the surrounding community. The Daily's Vol. 255 Editorial Board consists of Editor-in-Chief Claire Wang '20, Executive Editor Anna-Sofia Lesiv '20, Managing Editor of Opinions Elizabeth Lindqwister '21, Harrison Hohman '19 and Gabe Rosen '19. To contact the Editorial Board, submit an op-ed (limited to 700 words) at opinions@stanforddaily.com or submit a letter to the editor (limited to 500 words) at eic@stanforddaily.com.