I joined the Stanford Review as soon as I came to Stanford. Though no longer an overly idealistic Ron Paul campaign volunteer convinced that non-interventionist foreign policy and minimal economic regulation would fix all of America’s problems, I was still eager to argue about the liberal arts and trade policy. When I read a Review piece during my senior year of high school that explored the decline of the humanities at Stanford, I recognized something special: a publication unafraid to push against the prevailing orthodoxies and state uncomfortable truths. I knew I wanted to be part of it.
At my first Monday meeting at Old Union after arriving on the Farm, I looked on, curious and a tad intimidated, as a diverse group of upperclassmen talked politics. As would become a familiar feeling at Stanford, I felt ignorant. Review members knew a lot — about history, philosophy, and more — and they were rigorous, logical thinkers. This publication’s culture was refreshingly distinct from anything else I’d encountered at Stanford so far. No topic was taboo — in fact, at one of the first meetings we asked “what we can’t talk about at Stanford.” Unsupported or unsound arguments were rejected. The culture was meritocratic — no BS ‘assistant vice officer’ positions here as in other groups on campus. Regardless of whether you came from a top private school in New York City or you were homeschooled in the Midwest like me, if you wrote strong articles, you advanced.
I immediately threw myself in, publishing a piece critiquing New Student Orientation that provoked an upset phone call from my parents, who understandably weren’t happy that only two weeks into my tenure at Stanford, I’d decided to publicly criticize it. Over the years, however, I matured as a writer, thinker, and leader as I published and edited articles on everything from Western civilization to net neutrality.
Over my time at the Review, I learned to grow a thick skin: as my punishment for daring to publish controversial articles, one mature commenter repeatedly crudely insulted my mother in Spanish, while others threatened to contact my employers to have me fired (apparently campus activists haven’t realized that the world outside of Stanford doesn’t conform to their absurd extremes of political correctness.) Unfortunately, the Review is often misunderstood on campus as a bastion for overly confrontational, wealthy white males. To anyone who has come to a meeting, this is a hilarious accusation. At least half of our editorial board identifies as moderate or liberal, and we constantly disagree on issues like humanities education, gun control, and Title IX.
In fact, it’s hard to take seriously those accuse us of privilege, considering that the median family income at Stanford is an astonishing $167,000 and 66% of the student body hails from the top twenty percent of the income distribution. I highly doubt that most of these critics are disadvantaged. Growing up in a small Midwestern town to a nurse and music teacher — coming to Stanford was a dream to me — it was frustrating to be unfairly accused on the Internet of being a privileged fascist or racist by someone who had never talked to me in person.
Our campus political culture became increasingly stifling after the election of Trump: voicing a conservative opinion was often interpreted as supporting the president. In this environment, I became ever more grateful for the Review as one of the few remaining bastions of open discussion on campus: we do not avoid certain questions, and we do not jump to conclusions. Thankfully, thanks to a staff and writers committed to these values, the Review has remained untainted by identity politics, political correctness, and virtue-signalling. Our open, rigorous culture has naturally produced pieces from many perspectives, on diverse topics. For every The Stanford Review Demands Change, we publish a Lonely Men and Women of Faith. While we often take conservative positions, we do not enforce a party line. Because we believe so strongly in freedom of expression, for example, we published one editor’s dissent from our pieces on Professor David Palumbo-Liu.
Our values of curiosity, skepticism, and contrarianism have led to great success for our alumni beyond Stanford: as a Stanford Politics article described last year, Review alumni have shaped Silicon Valley, forming the core of the PayPal Mafia and founding tech companies and venture firms such as Palantir and Formation 8. Even when college does not, the professional world often rewards the bravery to champion good ideas, even when they prove unpopular.
Being part of the Review has been one of the most intellectually satisfying experiences of my Stanford career. Beyond this, it’s left me with lifelong friends. I am confident that my successor Sam Wolfe, a brilliant writer and thinker, will continue to foster this culture of intellectualism and camaraderie. If you seek a community of truly curious, diverse students eager for discussion and unafraid to ask difficult questions, come to a Monday meeting at Old Union 215.
Thank you to our readers for another wonderful volume.