Widgets Magazine


Stanford is not your battleground

A few months back, during ASSU campaign season, a curious email circulated, with a slate of candidates declaring that they “think that Stanford hasn’t exactly been the best in representing low-income, first generation students, and has misappropriated its funds towards places its students doesn’t want them to go.” They also said that “[the] ASSU seems to lack representation of the Student body.”

I didn’t look too much into the slate, but the email itself felt extremely weird because of how vague the wording was. It sounded almost like what would happen if an AI that was supposed to generate Bernie Sanders quotes never had its programming finished — or, like someone with no actual understanding of social justice or leftism trying to reproduce talking points they got down through rote memorization.

So, things made a lot more sense when the FoHo reported that slate to be part of some sort of project by right-wing organization Turning Point USA and a student (who I shall not name) to elect conservatives onto ASSU positions. And while some may doubt the veracity of things that the FoHo says, these claims appear to be credible. The candidate who sent out this email as part of the slate in question is a member of the Stanford College Republicans, and yet decided to run on some indisputably leftist slogans like “representing low-income, first generation students.” While neither of those things are objectionable, they do fit suspiciously well with a well-documented TPUSA strategy of disguising the conservative beliefs of candidates until they are elected. So, believe what you will.

Now, you might wonder: what is the point of all this? Why are right-wing millionaires funneling money into this national group that is in turn trying to contest elections that most students don’t really care about? Heck, we literally just decided an election based on which folks broke fewer campaign rules.

Well, according to a leaked strategy document from Turning Point USA itself, they are doing this so they can implement, through the student governments they capture, policies that include “defunding progressive organizations” on campuses, “block all Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) groups … and start Pro-America, Pro-Israel, and Free Market [sic] week-long events on [campuses],” and my favorite:

Using student resources to message American Exceptionalism and Free Market [sic] ideals on [campuses].”

Stanford, incidentally, is explicitly identified in this document as one of the “target” campuses.

On most college campuses in America, conservatives are in the minority, and Stanford is no exception. While there is no reliable data on how many conservatives there are on campus, a 2016 pre-election poll conducted by the Daily shows that only about 15% of the undergraduate student body identified as either conservative or libertarian. Stanford’s political climate is left-leaning because most of the student body is left-leaning. It is often strange to see people view college campuses as immutable bastions of leftism when, in fact, student bodies of universities are one of the most transitory demographics there are. Students come, students go, almost everyone leaves after a few years. The university is an ever-changing organism that reflects on the preferences of its student body. So, when conservatives attack the things that they think makes campuses “liberal”, they are actually attacking the choices the current students have made — the activities they choose to spend time in, the people they choose to associate with, and the clubs they choose to join. And instead of asking the difficult questions — why are young people predominantly liberal? Why is conservative ideology so odious and poorly-received among college students?— the Turning Point USA strategy is effectively an attack on students — trying to trick us into electing people who are against our interests, pulling funds from clubs and organizations we choose to take part in and forcing events and speakers we don’t want or need down our throats — and with our own money at that.

In some sense, this strategy is an admission of defeat in and of itself, because it shows that Turning Point USA are not at all interested in convincing anyone or to engage in substantive discussions about policy. Instead, it has chosen to trick the student body into voting for its candidates, and then using those elected puppets of theirs to forcibly “[use] student resources to message American Exceptionalism and Free Market ideals.” It is not free speech or critical discussion that they want. The goal, plain as day in this strategy document, is to rig the platform by funding its own messaging while defunding real student groups so that they can scream their dogma louder than any genuine, not-funded-by-outside group student voices.

The Turning Point USA strategy document I cited earlier is titled “Winning Back Our Universities.” So, I ask: winning back universities from what? This kind of rhetoric assumes that college students tend to be left-leaning because they have been brainwashed into it, never mind the fact that studies have shown that college actually broadens students’ political views. To assume that students lean left because they have been brainwashed or tricked is infantilizing and insulting to students’ intelligence and their ability to think for themselves; it is presumptuous, because it rejects the possibility that right-wing ideology could simply be unappealing (which it certainly is); but, most importantly, it is a classic case of psychological projection, because Turning Point USA is doing precisely that — trying to trick students into voting for conservatives.

There is not some massive left-wing plot to educate Marxists in America. The fact that Stanford is “liberal” is a product of each individual’s personal choice of political identification, and if the right wishes to respect individualism and choice, part of that respect must be to respect the present situation where the vast majority of Stanford students have openly, repeatedly, and vociferously rejected the ideology that TPUSA has attempted to preach.

Stanford is not your battleground.

Contact Terence Zhao at zhaoy ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Terence Zhao

Terence Zhao '19 originally hails from Beijing, China, before immigrating to the US and settling in Arcadia, CA, a suburb of Los Angeles. He is majoring in Urban Studies, and promotes the major with cult-like zeal. In his spare time, he likes to explore cities and make pointless maps.