The Winds of Freedom, The Winds of Change

The dates April 28 and April 29, 2011 probably mean very little to most of the campus. It was midterm week. The weather was pleasant. And three seemingly unrelated, and altogether consequential events transpired on those two days.

On April 28, Admit Weekend began. Many upperclassmen should recall this, as the campus was flooded with high school seniors in those glorious red lanyards, and also drained of alcohol.

The collection of students represents the single largest applicant pool (34,200), and the smallest percentage of admits (7.1%) in Stanford History.

And any prospective freshmen wheeling luggage past the Law School Quadrangle around five in the afternoon would have encountered a rather boisterous scene. The Faculty Senate had voted overwhelmingly, by a 28-9-3 margin, to empower President Hennessey to initiate discussions with Reserve Officers Training Corps about bringing the organization back to campus after a nearly 40 year hiatus.

On April 29, the Philip Knight Graduate School of Business Management Center had its grand opening. Complete with the Band, free sushi, Coupa gift cards, and tours of the breathtaking, eight-building complex, the gala marked the beginning of a new era for the GSB.

Taken one by one, each event is somewhat significant. But from a broader perspective, this weekend in late April speaks to the present and the future of Leland Stanford Junior University.

Our microscopic admission rate is a symbol of an undeniable fact – if we did not know it already, we are one of the premier institutions of learning in the world. The combined thousand years the Ivies have been in business cannot argue with our global ascendancy.

The Faculty Senate’s vote on ROTC, which arrived after months of contention and debate, signals that the institution’s commitment to global leadership in the broadest sense is not wavering.

While I believe that the student body is almost unanimous in hoping to see open service of transgender Americans in the armed services, the vote puts to rest close to 40 years of campus conflict. To truly be great, Stanford must remain a free marketplace of ideas, and bringing ROTC back only furthers such a goal.

The Knight Management Center, along with the Law School building and the almost-finished Science and Engineering Quad, are physical reminders that our graduate programs are now either the best, or nearly the best in the world.

Stanford has committed millions of dollars and untold numbers of resources into them, and the glory of the new Knight Center — coupled with our sunshine — makes it unlikely that the GSB’s #1 national ranking will change anytime soon.

Since arriving on this campus in September 2007, I have seen this campus transformed in many ways. Beyond Cardinal Football’s epic turnaround (2012 Pac-12 Champions – yes we can!), the physical geography and landscape have been massively altered. The nearly unprecedented level of construction this past decade has wedded the Quad’s timelessness to a strikingly modern commitment to future greatness.

A great many things have happened in these four years. But as a soon-to-be-alum, I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for the Farm.

In the coming months, the Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford will report its vision for revitalizing the undergraduate experience. The implications of this study may reshape the way we think of Stanford, and I am hopeful for the best.

The new Bing Concert Hall, reviews of ResEd and SAL – so much is continuing to take place here. So my hope, as I prepare to leave my beloved Farm, is that the Winds of Freedom Blow and that the Winds of (Positive) Change follow suit.

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