Widgets Magazine



Like many other college campuses, Stanford is a bastion of intellectual liberalism. Students, administrators and staff largely hold a political philosophy that is meant to be rational, and governed by scientific and empirical fact. It is an ideology that believes that climate change is an indisputable scientific fact and that stem cell research has the potential to save millions of lives. But all too often, liberals on campus do not base their decisions on rationality as much as emotion.

Consider the reaction on campus to the issue of gun violence. After the Umpqua Community College mass shooting, numerous students expressed belief that another nine innocent people had died because of our nation’s inability to enact sensible gun control. And many in our community were outraged when Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill permitting the possession of concealed weapons on college campuses.

Stanford students widely circulated protests of the law — including the resignation letter of a professor who stated that the new policy increased the “risk that a disgruntled student might bring a gun into the classroom” — throughout social media. But their contempt for such open carry policies is not supported by data.

A comprehensive study of U.S. crime records by economists John Lott and David Mustard found an association between right-to-carry laws and lower crime rates. And while the Lott-Mustard finding is controversial, a survey of current research published in the Maryland Law Review found that 18 studies concluded that right-to-carry laws reduced violent crime, 10 showed “no discernible effect,” and only one concluded that such laws increased crime.

Many in the Stanford community are willing to strip college students of their weapons, undermining the deeply-rooted constitutional right to bear arms — a right that James Madison asserted “shall not be infringed” — for statistical evidence that suggests that right-to-carry laws have no effect on or actually reduce crime.

Or consider the reaction to the recent Stanford Campus Climate Survey. Many on campus criticized the report’s emphasis on the statistic that 1.9 percent of students suffer from sexual assault; they argued that the report obscured the fact that the incidence of all sexual misconduct at Stanford is dramatically higher.

One student activist went so far as to say that by delineating between sexual abuse and broader cases of sexual misconduct, university leaders were “prioritizing their own image over the safety of students.”

But in reality, the survey helps clarify the problem of sexual abuse on campus. Stanford’s definition of sexual misconduct is broad: It is characterized by anything from rape to “sexual touching without consent.” All forms of sexual misconduct are unconscionable, but different preventative strategies and punitive procedures are required for varying offenses.

By precisely depicting the prevalence of different forms of sexual misconduct, Stanford’s administration is attempting to foster an honest campus-wide conversation. But many liberals on campus appear intent not to have such a conversation, trumpeting misleading statistics that preclude honest engagement.

Discourse on sexual assault on campus is not merely academic; discussions between students, activists and the administration have a tangible impact on policy. When fallacious arguments and deceiving statistics dominate public discourse, University policy is likely to be influenced in a deleterious manner.

In a 1904 speech to the Board of Trustees, Jane Stanford stated that the institution she founded ought to “outgrow old thoughts and ways, and dare to think on new lines as to the future of the work under our care.”

In order to grow and develop new mindsets, Stanford students — the leaders of tomorrow — must engage in free and open discourse on the most important issues facing our community and society. But in order for true discourse to happen, liberals must move past emotional positions decoupled from fact.


Contact Kiran Sridhar at ksridhar ‘at’ stanford.edu.

  • student

    Thanks for writing this piece. I would only take issue with the phrase “indisputable scientific fact”. Scientific fact is such precisely because it COULD be disputed, but hasn’t been!

  • Stanny

    The identity groups that used to comprise the American Left stopped having anything to do with liberal thought a long time ago. They’re adherent to their own set of doctrines and absolutely authoritarian about spreading them.

    On a daily basis you see “liberals” on this campus fighting to undo everything liberalism has ever fought for, from sexual assault activists trying to tear down the Presumption of Innocence, to SOCC effectively disenfranchising everyone else, to multiple student groups being shut down for speech code violations.

    What part of the behavior of Stanford “liberals” involves rational debate or discourse? The Daily ops section is the epicenter of this: a series of articles about why one identity group doesn’t have to listen to anyone, or perversions of the truth to fit a narrative. It has nothing to do with promoting the universal and equal rights of humankind, and everything to do with promoting themselves.

  • Student

    This article is an example of poor journalism. Stop sterotyping liberals, especially without any evidence.

    I debate the author’s viewpoint that liberals are biased, since the author provides no evidence-based survey results that support that opinion. If you want to believe the author, it’s easy to do so; all you have to do is recall an example or two of passionate folk who haven’t taken the time to inform themselves. Unfortunately, that sort of passion and lack of information is very common. The author of this article comes across as a passionate and (because Kiran is only targeting liberals) misguided/political-biased person. It’s fairly easy to come up with examples of people who use factually incorrect statements (for instance, Carly Friorina’s mention of an abortion video) or try to talk about stuff they don’t know enough about (Sarah Pailin). When poltiicans do this while speaking on record, we can quantify the number of discrepancies and make value judgements as to the importance of these discrepancies. Anecdotal evidence, on the other hand, is inherently biased!

    You cannot say “liberals must move past emotional positions decoupled from fact” without doing a survey of their factual knowledge. While you are doing the survey, why don’t you compare liberal and conservative students as separate classes and see how much factual knowledge they have on issues?! My hypothesis is that you will find no statistically significant difference between liberal and conservative students in terms of their factual knowledge, BECAUSE passion is a human condition, not a liberal one. I’m not even going to bother debating your stances on gun control, etc., because it’s obvious that you only hear what you want to hear. Stop calling the kettel black.

  • pretty much

    Pretty much. The comment sections are always so much better than the actual op-eds which recycle “Fuck Shakespeare”, “RAWR I R BLACK WOMYN FEAR ME” and “Trans-CitY Bitch”

  • Conrad Steiner

    Your whole rebuttal essentially boils down to, “but hey, Conservatives are are emotional, too!” Nowhere in Kiran’s article was it asserted that conservatives are immune from bias or stances motivated by passion. You are attacking a straw man.

  • CitationNeeded

    ” I’m not even going to bother debating your stances on gun control,
    etc., because it’s obvious that you only hear what you want to hear.
    Stop calling the kettel black.”

    So…. are you actually going to offer evidence to refute Kiran’s argument? Because your ad hominem remark and refusal to engage with a different viewpoint only serves to demonstrate the truth of Kiran’s characterization of liberals.

  • Surveys!

    Ya Stanford’s liberals always respond well to survey results!

  • That Middle Paragraph

    On Sexual Assault: That came down from the feds. ARP was not truly a choice if Stanford wanted to get getting federal dollars.

    On SOCC and Elections: They do what literally any other coalition of student groups could do if they felt like it. Actually, GAIA and the Queer Coalition do just that.

    On Student Groups being Shut Down: Let’s face it, SAE deserved it. Now the Band on the other hand…

  • Lily Zheng

    Yes, I too burn with a fervent hate of aforementioned column, “Trans-CitY Bitch”

  • Student

    Then why did Kiran title her article “Liberalism”? If Kirian had used a less leading title, I wouldn’t have objected as much. Kirian does a great job implying that liberals are to blame without saying conservatives are immune, hats off to Kiran. But a different choice of title for the article would have been appreciated. Something that implies college students talk about what they don’t know about rather than simply liberals.

  • Student

    You are correct that I shouldn’t have used those words. The point of my rebuttal wasn’t about Kirian’s stance on gun control, but rather Kirian’s assertion that liberals only hear what they want to hear. I think the way Kirian wrote the article implied Kirian only hears what Kirian wants to hear, and that what I meant. No, I actually don’t want to debate Kirain’s stance on gun control in this rebuttal, because that’s another topic. This rebuttal is about Kirian’s attack on liberals that doesn’t mention conservatives AT ALL. That omission implies that conservatives are immune to logical fallacy, which isn’t the case. Maybe Kirian didn’t mean to imply that, in which case we both used sloppy word choice.

  • Student

    Incidentially, I don’t have a strong opinion on gun control, which is why I don’t care to debate Kirian on it.

  • Dissenter

    You know, I rather like the “RAWR I R BLACK WOMYN FEAR ME” and “Trans-CitY Bitch” columns. They’re honest enough to not give two shits about respectability or being seen as the “angry black woman” or being seen as, well as you said, a total bitch. No, they do not cater to the whining “sensibilities” of the commentators whose only purpose is to log in with a fake profile and attempt to piss at them, because those women know damn well that the commentator is only pissing in their own face. NO, these women are like “fuck that shit, I’ll be brutally honest with myself and everybody else that reads.”

    And really, that makes them 1000 times greater than anybody who thinks their witty in the comments section. And infinitely better than the trolls.

  • Conrad Steiner

    “Then why did Kiran title her article ‘Liberalism’?”

    Because liberalism is the subject of Kiran’s article? Nothing about the title is leading. Seriously, ‘Student’, spend a moment and think about what you’re implying. You’re claiming that any article that criticizes one category, automatically implies that everything outside of that category is free from that criticism.

    If somebody writes an article criticizing Sunni Muslims, does that immediately imply that Shiites, Kurds, etc. are free from whatever is being criticized? If I write an article criticizing the United States’ use of fossil fuels, does that imply that every other country has great renewable energy production? Of course not. To do so would be ridiculous – much like your comment.

  • Jonathan Poto

    Dumb title for an article about gun control.