by Conor Doherty, ’13
The efficacy of Stanford’s student activist movements has been a frequent topic of conversation around campus and in the editorial pages of The Daily the last few weeks. Most prominently, outgoing Executive Editor Brendan O’Bryne wrote an article questioning our “campus’s definition of activism” and raising important concerns about troubling events and policies that have received little attention. While I disagree with some of Brendan’s comments about our the insularity of Stanford’s activist community and narrowing the scope of issues we should be addressing, I appreciate his call for more focused and effective engagement with pressing on-campus problems.
Others have been more dismissive of Stanford’s student activist movements. Toward the end of Fall Quarter, The Daily published an editorial explaining one student’s “problem with activism.” More recently, another writer went so far as the say that the word “activist” should be “banished” from the Stanford lexicon. On the surface, these “critiques” are broad and ambiguous. I recognize that, if you look past the dismissive facades, their author’s are (I think) calling for “better” activism, rather than no activism at all. However, their reductive use of straw man arguments is frustrating and undermines substantive discussion. I get that the “panel on muskrat rights in 19th-century Bulgaria” line was supposed to be funny but, as someone who has written a lot of bad satire, I know it when I see it. Continue reading