A Google webform entitled “Make Stanford Better” has been making the circuit of a number of email lists. The form offers students a chance to anonymously write up any number of complaints that they have about Stanford. In particular, the form, which is the brainchild of Robin Robert George Fahnestock Thomas ’12, calls on Stanford students to write about:
What’s made you miserable while you’ve been at Stanford? What have been your biggest frustrations? Disappointments? What royally pisses you off? What’s just not working? How could this college be better? Look, the more honest you are, the more effective this will be. You don’t even have to leave your name. So feel free to write as angrily or as peaceably, as much or as little as you want.
And people have taken him up on the offer. As of 9:00 PM, there are 102 responses (now closed due to trolling – about 87 were real, so far as I could tell), although a number are by the same person (e.g. the latest set, which is a back-and-forth about whether it is “TOO COLD” or “NOT”). More than that, however, there have consistently been 25 or more people who are reading what people are writing, which appears on the linked page. It’s clearly actually struck a certain vain of Stanford anger. What are people saying?
It would take far too long to actually explore each complaint (for the record, I’ve at least skimmed all those that have been posted so far), but a few patterns emerge.
First, there’s the conflict between what I term “operational” complaints and “cultural” complaints. Some people call on Stanford to keep dining halls open all day. Some people (unsurprisingly) call for the elimination of IHUM. Some people call for reforming undergraduate advising. Those are all largely operational complaints: the university could expand dining options, eliminate (or change) IHUM, or reform advising. In each of those cases, it’s more of a cost-benefit analysis for the administration: how much use would 24 hour dining facilities receive, considering their cost?
On the flip side of this, there are people who criticize Stanford’s culture, ranging from a campus culture that says that partying is the only way to have fun on the weekends, to excessive competitiveness, to overly aggressive liberalism, to a lack of understanding of minorities (broadly defined: socio-economic and religious, as well as racial/ethnic). These complaints are tougher to immediately deal with, especially since a number of the complaints play into the second pattern: conflicting prescriptions.
Being Stanford, there’s always disagreement. There are people who are calling IHUM awful and people calling on people to give IHUM a chance. There’s someone saying “I’M SUPER DOWN WITH BE INTOLERANT OF RACISM, SEXISM, HOMOPHOBIA, CLASSISM, ELITISM. DOES THAT MAKE ME AN INTOLERANT PERSON?” (sic) and someone saying “[The LGBT community] may find my heteronormativity stifling, but is impossible to consider that the reverse may be true as well?” There are people complaining about both minority self-segregation and the white self-segregation in fraternities. Clearly, there is disagreement about what the real problems are. Maybe it’s both. Maybe it’s neither.
To be sure, there’s plenty of agreement: Stanford Duck Syndrome is bad, Stanford students need to be better bikers, etc. But it’s interesting to see that there’s still so much disagreement, even if lots of people agree that there are problems.