Stanford Review - Archive - Volume XXVIII - Issue 3 - Opinion
Objectivist Club's Influence Expands
by Jason Rheins
Stanford Objectivist Club
"My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute."
-- Ayn Rand
Despite the phenomenal influence and success Ayn Rand's works have had in America in the last 50 years, her philosophical thought has remained largely unexamined, ignored, or even scorned by American scholars. Students who discover her work and develop an interest in her revolutionary philosophy, Objectivism, have been almost totally unable to learn about it formally in an academic context. In response to this demand, a movement of Objectivist campus clubs has been steadily developing and growing since the 1960's in universities throughout North America and the rest of the civilized world. The Stanford Objectivist club, like the nearly one hundred other campus clubs that currently exist, is dedicated to the study and promotion of Objectivism. By providing free literature, lecture series, discussion meetings, and philosophical reading groups the SOC seeks to both introduce Ayn Rand's ideas to the students and faculty of Stanford University and to offer them a means of further studying Objectivism.
Objectivist clubs have existed sporadically at Stanford going as far back as at least the 1970's. The current club was reestablished at the beginning of the '99-'00 year by Bradely Malestein, then a graduate student in Statistics. Since that time the SOC has both widened the scope of its programs and increased its visibility on campus. With its provocative lecture topics and its controversial advertisements the Objectivist club has managed to attract increasingly large crowds at its events. Since the winter of 2000 the Objectivist club has sponsored over a dozen lectures on topics ranging from the philosophy of physics, to Ayn Rand's novels, to environmentalism and multiculturalism.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the SOC sponsored two major lectures, "The Twin Towers Destroyed by the Ivy Tower: How America's Universities Harbor the Ideas that Spread Terrorism" by Dr. Gary Hull and "The Moral Case for Supporting Israel" by Dr. Yaron Brook. Additionally, the club increased its political activism by promoting a petition in favor of the war against terrorism, publishing a full-page advertisement in the Stanford Daily calling for the defeat of the state sponsors of terrorism, and by joining a panel of other student groups in discussing the effects of September 11th. The results were that the opposition to the war on campus was challenged significantly and that it became clear that the SOC would continue to have a loud voice in any ideological debate at Stanford.
While increasing its efforts to promote its political ideals, the SOC has also strengthened its drive to spread awareness of the rest of Ayn Rand's philosophy, especially her ethical code of Rational Egoism. In the past four weeks, the SOC sponsored two major lectures: "Rational Egoism in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead" by Dr. Andrew Bernstein and "Ayn Rand vs. Friedrich Nietzsche: Who is the True Individualist?" by Dr. John Ridpath. Large crowds of students attended these lectures, and the club distributed nearly one hundred copies of Ayn Rand's novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
Perhaps most impressively of all, the SOC has aided the establishment and promotion of the first accredited course at Stanford on Objectivism, "Introduction to Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand" a student initiated course taught by SOC president, Jason Rheins. Like the growth of attendance at SOC events, the success of the Objectivism class demonstrates that there is a real student interest in the study of Ayn Rand's philosophy.
In the Spring Quarter the Objectivist club will begin a philosophy discussion group that will meet on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to study Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Dr. Leonard Peikoff. Video taped lectures will be shown in Tressider Union, and the club will have at least one major lecture event, a debate on an ethical or political issue between an Objectivist intellectual, and an opponent. Finally, bi-weekly meetings that were temporarily suspended this quarter will resume.
Future plans of the Objectivist club include promoting another student initiated course on Objectivism next year, improving its already strong ties with its sister club at UC Berkeley with coordinated events, becoming more involved in student panel forums, and printing and mass-distributing its own newsletter on Objectivism and Objectivist campus club activities. Most importantly, it will continue its traditions of distributing free literature on Objectivism and bringing distinguished scholars of Objectivism to Stanford to deliver lectures on Ayn Rand's thought.
All SOC programs and events are free and open to the public. Anyone who would like to be notified of upcoming SOC events can be subscribed to the club's email announcement list. To obtain more information about the club, or if you would like to be added to the club's announcement list, please contact Jason Rheins, email@example.com. If you are interested in making a financial contribution to the club, then please contact club treasurer Courtney Bowman, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to learn more about Objectivism start by going to the Ayn Rand Institute's website: http://www.aynrand.org or by reading Atlas Shrugged.
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