Dear Stanford, So here I am thinking my last column was a week ago and I’ve wrapped it up nicely when the Daily offers me a chance to write a senior reflection piece. Great, I think. Sentimental part two. But I say yes, as I do too often, and so find myself sitting at a…
I wonder why it is that we acclimate to change so quickly. The presidential election, suspension of the Stanford Band, CAPS drama and justice ad infinitum became facts of our social fabric as quickly as they happened, and the quarter system is merciless as always in its impartiality to the world around us.
That ethnography will likely never happen, and I know that as the months pass it becomes less and less relevant and less and less needed. But I can’t work up the courage to delete the file.
We’re nearing the end of the 2016-2017 academic year, and I’ve been thinking about Kardinal Kink again recently. Part of it is a selfish sort of nostalgia - I’ve been co-president for just about three years now and am getting ready to graduate - but a larger reason for writing about Kardinal Kink is because I’m genuinely proud of the work we’ve been able to do at Stanford since our founding late in the 2012-2013 academic year.
In activist communities, resilience of this sort seems rare. Rather than hear stories of activists who failed and recovered, we’re far more likely to hear stories of others who failed while interacting with activists and how devastating their failures must have been to them.
I’ve been meaning for the past two years to write a column on Inside-Outside strategy, or more colloquially, the general philosophy or strategy of organizing that prioritizes both those activists/advocates embedded inside political structures, and those based outside of them.
Arguing that “Stanford shows only good things, and hides the bad things” seems at this point to be a drastic oversimplification of how this university works.
Two years have passed since 2015, and activism has changed. Many frosh come pre-politicized, and a campus-wide movement is notably absent, swapped out for an endless number of smaller projects, initiatives and events.
The rapid creation of new student groups over the past few years has taken the core of activist mobilization, split it into a hundred pieces and scattered them across campus.
I believe that this trend is the result of a more complicated story, a story in which visibility and inclusion mirror violence and exclusion, involving two increasingly fractured transgender camps.
Fascism 2,800 miles away is a different beast from fascism right here on the farm, and having a persistent and open conflict on campus would necessarily galvanize a drawn-out activist movement.
At Stanford, what’s rarer than a snow day, more political than a rally and more powerful than a speech? Answer: A professor acknowledging local, national or global crisis in the classroom.
A real problem was framed in terms that indicted students and not underlying structural problems.
The problem now is that the reputation given by activists to the collective “administration” has stuck, even though the “Stanford” that activists fought against in 2014 is in many ways not the “Stanford” that we turn our sights to today.
In hindsight, it doesn’t seem all too surprising that the concept of “self-care” caught on the way it did.
We’ve got our movement; we know what we are resisting against; we know we’re in it for the long haul. But we don’t really yet have a way to act on our own terms - a way to win the slow burn of bad news attrition. It’s scarcely been a week, and I’m tired. Many of us are.
In practice, anyone who has done social justice work is immediately confronted by the overwhelming variation in ideology, experience and intentions among those who want to make a difference.
Now, as campus nervously awaits the inauguration of our president-elect and prepares to double down on social justice issues, it’s almost a given that CAPS is about to receive an influx in student demand. And yet, perhaps because the plethora of issues outside our campus have shifted our attention away, we’re not talking much about CAPS these days.
As organizational theorists would argue, Stanford University, like many other modern universities, is less a cohesive institution and more an “organized anarchy.” An institution organized in this way is difficult to understand, let alone organize against.
This is usually the trend: misinformed criticism of leftist activism or culture result in high-profile strawman arguments in popular media, which activists take great glee in tearing down. Real issues go unsolved, and both left and right further cement themselves into ironclad camps.
On Tuesday night, a hundred people gathered at Pigott Hall to begin organizing a unified coalition against oppression, hate and intolerance in the wake of the 2016 Presidential Election. In the audience were undergraduate and graduate students alike, as well as faculty and staff and non-Stanford-affiliated community members looking to contribute to the discussion. This meeting was an effort to bring together people - some of whom had never organized before - to strategize, organize and create a comprehensive coalition against hate and in support of marginalized and targeted communities.
2016 has been one of the worst years in recent memory for trans communities around the world. The 295 murders worldwide and 24 murders in the United States alone broke the previous record (271 and 22, in 2015), despite the increasing visibility of transgender, gender-variant and intersex people in society. As I wrote for 2015’s Trans Day of Remembrance, “never before have trans people been so visible in media and popular culture, and never before have trans people been so violently under threat.”
Right now, I’m scrolling past reblogged suicide hotlines and an endless stream of Facebook posts reacting to the news. I have to remind myself that the stages of grief include denial, anger, bargaining and depression, and the reactions of our generation are mourning perhaps the single biggest death of our lifetimes so far: the death of the status quo on an unimaginable scale.
Over the last year, advocates for LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination legislation campaigned tirelessly in the wake of gay marriage victories in 2015. A broad coalition of organizations and advocacy groups fought to ensure protections for queer and trans people on a state level, working with state legislatures around the country to create statutory protections in employment, housing and public accommodations. As 2016 nears its end, however, that coalition shows signs of falling apart.