Two weeks ago, Stanford University was attacked by the far left in a string of offensive stunts aimed at removing former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from campus. The Stanford Review was thrown into the “Condival” fiasco as event flyers parodied our publication in stating that the “Campus Review” sponsored the demonstration. As our front page article shows, the event featured games such as “Waterboarding for Apples,” “The Abu Ghraib Ring Toss,” and “Whack a Bad Guy.”
While we concede that many of the partcipants were simply passerbys (or bored Stanford students looking for a laugh), it is our opinion that it is in poor taste to mock the secretary of state. We have supported Professor Rice’s return to campus, mainly for non-political reasons. That is, we support the general idea that our professors should be able to go into public service and bring that experience back to Stanford without any kind of political witch-hunt upon their return. The idea that The Review supports torture or would make light of it is absurd. While we do have varying opinions within our staff on the issues of enhanced interrogation and waterboarding, we have not stated a position on such issues as a staff. We all agree that they are topics that should be discussed in a serious way.
In making thinly veiled references to our names, along with the Republicans and Stanford Conservative Society, the organizers of Condival were trying to polarize the campus rather than create serious discussion. They know perfectly well that The Review, Republicans, and SCS, while each have a solid backing, do not have the overall popular support of the university. In attempting to make this discussion a cheap partisan match, the organizers want to bully Professor Rice by associating her with what at Stanford are unfairly considered to be fringe groups.
Now, there have been legitimate points made by those opposing the professor’s return such as the counterfactual “what if Hitler were a tenured professor, could his time invading Poland and killing Jews be considered ‘public service?’” While it goes without saying that such a monstrous human rights violator would not be welcomed back, the fact is that international law and norms at the moment are vague as waterboarding has not been clearly defined as torture by the United Nations Convention Against Torture. In a taped moment at a dinner with students in Roble Hall that got put on Youtube (and later abused on the Keith Olberman show on MSNBC), Professor Rice indicated to student Sammy Abusrur that the administration believed that waterboarding was not torture. The Bush administration may one day come to regret its limited use of waterboarding as norms develop more clearly in the post-9/11 world, but its possible sins are nothing compared to those of the enemies we are fighting. No administration is perfect, but neither is international law or academia.
This is not an issue of Republicans and Democrats, or conservatives and liberals. As we have said before, Rice’s presence on campus promotes academic freedom and openness. By creating a mockery of the secretary of state, the activists are representing the radical fringes of Stanford. That assertion was also evident by the fact that no group, not even “Stanford Says No to War,” took credit for the demonstration. Almost everyone I have talked to at Stanford would love to have a chance to meet Professor Rice and is happy that the individual who was arguably the most powerful woman in the world a few months ago is here on campus–regardless of what such students think about Rice’s actions or those of the Bush Administration.
In addition to our staff covering “Condival,” one of our reporters for this issue went back in time to the 1960s while attending the “April 3rd Movement” reunion–which Stanford Says No To War announced near the top of its website. The same weekend as Condival, the April 3rd reunion celebrated the assortment of radical violent acts committed by many expelled 1960s radicals on the Stanford campus. The weekend culminated as the radicals nailed a petition on the door of the Board of Trustees, circulated by Stanford Says No To War, that demanded Professor Rice be held accountable and prosecuted for any violations of law through investigation. The language was actually more vague than what many conservatives believe since it did not actually read “fire Rice.” Still, the climate of tension backed by these self-declared violent 1960s radicals might make Stanford Says No To War reconsider with whom it aligns. Stanford Says No To War should not be “saying yes” to the practice of brick throwing and assaulting police officers.
As for the actual petition, which has over 850 signatures at the time of writing, many of the signed petitioner’s dubious relationships to the university cast doubt on the effectiveness of such a petition. Many relationships read “palo alto resident”, “friend” and “former employee.” The petition might have been more effective had it been limited to students. After all, this school should be about the students, and not expelled 1960s activists, Palo Alto liberals, “friends,” or MSNBC pundits. As Stanford students, we are proud to have Professor Rice on campus and proud to be at a place where ideas and differing viewpoints can be discussed in a peaceful and civil fashion.