By Alex Clayton
Stanford is one of the best universities in the world, and one of the facets which helps make it such a great university is its policies. While Stanford’s policies on test-taking, underage drinking, and sex education are not perfect, they are very good because they put responsibility into the hands of students rather than into the hands of the faculty. We all did not get into Stanford because we let everyone else control us; we took the initiative. Stanford continues to let us do so by not policing every aspect of our student lives, allowing us to make our own decisions and therefore to accept the consequences of our actions. The current policies on exams, alcohol, and sex are paramount in allowing us finally to take full responsibility for what we do, and they best prepare us for life in the “real world.”
Before each midterm or final, we sign our name on the front of our blue books, which signifies that we will not receive or give any unpermitted aid and will report any violation during the examination time. Professors and TAs are not allowed to proctor our exams and must leave during the examination. While I agree with Mr. Hirshman that there is a temptation to cheat for some students, and that some even do, proctoring examinations is not the answer. Personally, I do not think there is an issue with cheating during exams and implementing proctors would probably not substantially change anything. But Mr. Hirshman is missing the main point about Stanford’s Honor Code during tests, which gives the students, not the teachers, the responsibility of upholding fairness. I can surely say that if I witnessed cheating I would report the person and I am sure a lot of other students feel the same way. Reporting is completely anonymous, therefore eliminating social ostracism as a risk for students who report violations. The Honor Code during exams is a perfect example of the responsibility that Stanford puts in the hands of us students, allowing us to better prepare ourselves for the world ahead. Moreover, if a few students did get ahead during their time at Stanford by cheating, they are only cheating themselves—as they will quickly realize that there is no place for cheating in the real world, and it will undoubtedly catch up to them. Stanford’s current policy for examinations helps students grow up and learn how to take full responsibility for themselves and for their work, something that not many universities in the country allow, putting its students ahead of the curve.
Stanford’s “open door” policy on drinking is another example of how the school puts responsibility firmly in the hands of the students, helping them grow up faster than fellow students at other schools. Firstly, Mr. Hirshman’s idea that banning alcohol from freshman dorms will help curb underage drinking is not a good one since if students have the desire to drink, they will do so regardless of the official university policy. I would continue by saying that Stanford’s policies are actually safer because RAs know who is drinking and when people are drinking, so that they can monitor if students have too much to drink. If alcohol were banned, students would probably head off to drink somewhere not in the safety of our campus. This could cause even bigger problems if a student has had too much to drink, as they could not get help from their RAs or other students. While this does seem a little ridiculous, we know that freshmen are likely going to drink, and I think it is best if they do so in a safe environment. Additionally, if they have too much on a particular night, there will be someone there to help them out. But most importantly, Stanford puts the burden of responsibility into the hands of us students yet again, making us live with the consequences of potentially drinking too much, thus forcing us to make better decisions on our own.
As far as Stanford policies toward sex are concerned, while I completely agree that Stanford should promote moral behavior among us students, I do not agree that events such as The Real World: Stanford or “condom runs” to Vaden Health Center encourage students to have casual sexual encounters. Firstly, The Real World: Stanford is simply a comedy about student life that helps break the ice for talking about issues of sex on campus. Many incoming freshmen have probably never had sex, and Stanford uses these events to break down the taboo in order to create a more comfortable environment in which students can discuss the topic. The important outcome of these types of events is the education that students receive, and the comfortable environment allows dialogue to take place and educate students about safe sex. This policy still goes back to the main point I am making—Stanford puts the responsibility of the student in the hands of the students, letting us make our own decisions. Also, we all know that there is probably not much that is going to stop students from having sex, and an open dialogue on the topic can only help the situation. Lastly, one of the most important benefits I have heard about this type of dialogue comes from the fact that it helps break the taboo about sexual abuse. If a young woman is sexually abused or assaulted on campus, being in an environment where she feels comfortable getting help or talking to someone is critical and could mean wonders for her mental health. No young women should suffer because they were frightened to speak up because of the taboo of sex on campus.
I firmly believe that Stanford University is the best school in the world, and it is so in no small measure because of its policies. The few I discussed here, test-taking practices, alcohol consumption, and sex education to name a few, put us students in charge and makes us responsible for our own actions. We are all eventually going to leave Stanford, and our university has the policies in place to help us grow and mature and leave this school with not only a great degree, but also an understanding of how we need to conduct ourselves in the “real” real world.