Stanford University should not be endorsing the Occupy movement

On December 9, faculty and students joined together across campus for an event called “Occupy the Future.” Activism like this occurs all the time on modern university campuses, a fact the Review knows well. But this movement was different. This political movement had the backing of the university itself, a sign of the emergence of a dangerous new specter. That Stanford University would support, through its resources, such an inherently political movement as Occupy the Future shows both the pervasion of liberal thought in the university as well as the a complete disregard for intellectual fairness.

The purpose of the movement, at one time posted on their website, was “to build awareness about social inequality, the erosion of American democracy, and the link between unrestrained growth and the current environmental crisis.” The event began with teach-ins across campus in dining halls, cultural centers, and other gathering places during lunch, followed by a march towards White Plaza, where the capstone rally would be held. At the rally, speakers like former president Donald Kennedy spoke to the crowd about inequality, poverty, and the Occupy movement.

To be sure, the university support did not come straight from the President’s office. Hennessy’s office strongly defends against claims of political involvement by the University. But the movement’s website states it best: “The Occupy the Future events are the product of distributed leadership among Stanford University students, faculty and staff.”

Part of that distributed leadership rested with the Haas Center for Public Service. According to a statement provided to the Review in December from Tom Schnaubelt, executive director of the Haas Center, the center provided space for meetings, website hosting and management, and mentorship to the student leaders of the group. Schnaubelt says he was approached by a group of faculty who wanted to educate students about the Occupy movement and the issues it raises.

But at the core, Schnaubelt and the Haas Center represent the university. The directive may not have originated from President Hennessy’s office, but the Haas Center swung behind the movement with the full weight and force of University resources and legitimacy.

Sadly, Stanford’s beloved Dean Julie Lythcott-Haimes also lent her authority and credibility to this charade. She used her access to the class lists, comprising the entire undergraduate body, to encourage student involvement in the movement.

Had the student planners and the Haas Center been fair, they would have either eliminated any discussion of solutions to avoid political rhetoric entirely, or they would have included solutions from across the political spectrum. Instead, as expected, the teach-ins and rally became instruments of the Democratic Party, socialists, and anarchists driving an agenda of redistribution.

While the university provides space for several causes, like ROTC, LGBTQ communities and activism, and sustainable practices, the Occupy the Future movement acted as a purely political denigration of free-market principles in favor of liberal collectivism. No university policy was at stake. The backers simply wanted to latch onto a national political movement under the guise of “educating” students.

As one would expect, this “education” comes bathed in liberal ideology. In one of the largest teach-ins, popular professor of philosophy Rob Reich entertained dozens of interested students. Reich conceded that complete income equality would be bad. But he went on to argue against the wealth disparity of the 1%, complaining about skyboxes, gated communities, and wealth used for free speech in political campaigns. Finally, he removed his jacket to reveal an “I love taxes” t-shirt.

Awareness about inequality and poverty as a topic of education is not bad. Conservatives and libertarians care deeply about these issues, and propose economic solutions that attempt to maximize the liberty and freedom that can allow people to overcome poverty and inequality. But Reich’s talk, as with certainly many others, veered far into the realm of political rhetoric with new tax schemes and liberty-less policy proposals.

Several talks just like Reich’s occurred across campus, inculcating a very political agenda to several hundred impressionable students in just a few hours

The Review Editorial Board is dissappointed that university higher-ups did not step in to prevent at least the Haas Center and Dean Julie from participating in this intellectually one-sided, politically charged affair with seemingly no effect on university policy.  They owe more to students and to knowledge than Occupy the Future provided.

Subscribe to the Stanford Review