Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Jotthe Kannappan: Stanford- Just a bubble, or its own country?

Earlier today, Provost Etchemendy made an offhand comment about how Stanford, since 1975, has gained more Nobel Prizes than either France or Germany. Interestingly, this comment spurred a thought in my mind. Could Stanford be its own country?

The political structure definitely exists. President Hennessey is the President, and Provost Etchemendy could be his Chief of Staff. All the Deans of individual schools would be cabinet members. The Board of Trustees could act as a legislative body that actually does the most heavy lifting in terms of enhancing the Stanford experience. The students, paying tuition, are the taxpayers.

That leads to the next logical question, what does the geographical distribution look like? The answer, of course, is that Stanford has various states. Each school is its own state. As Provost Etchemendy mentioned today, there was a time in Stanford's history where the university was less than its constituent parts. The individual schools all belonged to the same union, but did not work together very often. In the past 13 years that has changed. One could look at this situation as a switch from states'-rights to marble cake federalism.

The next issue comes to federal and state policies. The government funds the creation of "infrastructure," as Provost Etchemendy mentioned, in the form of building new buildings that evolve with technology and the university. Provost Etchemendy also spoke about freedom of expression and speech, and how that was integral to the university. The university also had founding principles, which included co-education and non-sectarianism (equality in our country).

Not to mention that, above all, we have select few Stanford citizens that have spent their entire lives at Stanford, and have educated a new generation of students, some of whom will become Stanford educators in the future. Stanford has a self-perpetuating workforce/citizenry.

Of course, the hardest part to create a logical parallel for is the endowment. One could pretend that our government was simply operating on a huge surplus budget, one that guarantees the future of this great nation. The benefactors of the university don't have any parallel at all, by any stretch of the comparison, but, for the sake of amusement, we can ignore this fact.

Though there are many holes in the argument, it is an interesting comparison to make, because it puts in perspective exactly how hard it is to run a university, and how much history and tradition is involved in that mission. 

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