According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Stanford’s withdrawal centered around faltered negotiations. One of the debated issues was “whether the school could withdraw from the project without penalties…” But the article in the Wall Street Journal purports to cite “several people familiar with the negotiations” who claim that Stanford withdrew because “the university preferred to quit than lose.” Whatever the reason (and I don’t believe Stanford was ever that concerned with losing), the school’s departure from the contest might be better for the university’s long-term interests.
I was never opposed to the NYC campus–it offered many opportunities for the university. The city itself would have provided resources for development, and was obviously an attractive location for professors and students. As great as the West Coast is, not everyone would consider applying to Stanford.
But the campus would have cost $2.5 billion over the course of 30 years, and perhaps Stanford’s desire to withdraw from the project without penalty is an indication of the inherent risk. What if the campus failed to catch on? What if the type of applicants the university seeks for admission were not as attracted to this campus, one that does not provide the full college experience, like a Stanford-Palo Alto, Harvard, or Yale might? Perhaps in several years New York will no longer be a place of growth in applied science industries. Or perhaps Stanford’s model for this campus was too idealistic. Would the university have been able to maintain its academic expectations at a campus separated by the continent, struggling to initially attract students, and maybe even professors?
Certainly these were all concerns for the university, and now Stanford will not have to take on these risks. When it comes to locations, Stanford’s main campus could not be better placed. With 30 years and now that same $2.5 billion spent in Palo Alto, Stanford will likely be just as competitive if not more so than Cornell and other universities that are branching into multiple campuses. New York City would have been fun, but the withdrawal from the competition should not be seen as a loss or let-down.