One of the most common knocks against campus life at Stanford has been the lack of a strong arts scene that most top universities seem to have. While most Stanford students, it seems, know this to be true, few feel the impetus to do anything about it. But this well-established fact harms the university, and students, in several important ways. First, this leads to a perception of Stanford being a “techie” school, and some even call it “Stanford Tech.” While Stanford does have a pervasive techie culture, many students do major in the humanities and the social sciences. Second, accepted students to Stanford who are planning to major in the humanities may feel that Stanford’s academic culture is dominated by science students and choose to go elsewhere as a result. This creates a self-perpetuating stereotype that we must do our best to combat. Third, the existence of a strong arts scene is something that can benefits all students, even if not everyone takes advantage of it. It adds to the diversity of student experiences and interests, something that everyone can appreciate.
This is not to say that the quality of arts groups and arts events at Stanford is not good, because they are. It is true that the arts scene at Stanford is not as large as at some of Stanford’s peer schools. Groups like the Stanford Organizing Committee on the Arts, the Music Department and the Stanford Concert Network (which brought two excellent acts, Jose Gonzalez in the fall, and Ted Leo & the Pharmacists in the winter, to campus) have done much with what they have. Groups like the Stanford Opera Society have managed to carve themselves a niche on campus. However, these same groups often complain about the lack of adequate funding, from both the OSA and the ASSU. This is unacceptable; in the pursuit of a full range of options for students, the arts must be treated equally to other aspects of student life.
An important imperative of the ASSU next year should be to pay closer attention to ways to develop of a more vital arts scene. Specifically, it should be a long-term mission of the Student Life, Housing and Education Committee in the ASSU Senate to promote the arts through both publicity and funding. When determining student group funding for next year, the ASSU Senate must realize the importance of improving the arts scene. Existing student groups need the financial resources to fund their activities at a higher level. With more financial support, groups would be better able to put on events and publicize them adequately. And the ASSU, as an organization, has a formidable publicity apparatus and internet capabilities, and this should be put to good use promoting the arts. It has not in the past, forcing student groups to do publicity on their own, which is unnecessary and costly.
Promoting the arts would add much to the campus life. There is untapped wealth in the student body and ensuring the prominence of the arts on campus would contribute to the overall diversity of our campus. The student body should approve all of the arts groups requesting Special Fees funding this year, such as SOCA, Cardinal Ballet Company, and the Stanford Wind Ensemble. The next ASSU leadership, as well, will have the ability to do much for the arts next year, and voters should take that into consideration when making their choices.