by Holly Fetter, ’13
I’d like to go on a brief rant about a piece of news in today’s Daily. The following headline fills the top right corner of the cover page: “Trustees pass funding for new center: Board signs off on 4.2 million for ‘contemplation center.’”
At first glance, I thought this was a Flipside article. 4.2 million dollars? For a “contemplation center”? What does that even mean?
But alas, it’s real. The Stanford Board of Trustees has allocated $4.2 million to build a 4,000 square-foot contemplation center “where people can sit and contemplate” while enjoying abstract expressionist art.
Don’t get me wrong – contemplation is crucial. But for most students, it’s not triggered by a piece of (albeit beautiful) artwork on a wall. We contemplate when we’re biking between classes, eating froyo, or having our beliefs challenged in a discussion section. We contemplate after arguments with roommates, or encountering microaggressions in the dining hall. We don’t need a special space for our constant contemplation to take place – especially if it’s a glorified art gallery, which might feel inaccessible to folks who don’t visit those very often.
But my problem with the new center is this: why weren’t students consulted? Each of us has a list of at least ten things that we’d like to see created at Stanford, and many of those items costs a fraction of $4.2 million. I’ve always assumed that the Board of Trustees is out of touch with the Stanford student’s reality, and the contemplation center confirms it.
As a lover of art and aesthetics, I fully support the construction of a new art space on campus. But here are a few ideas for other ways the Board could spend its money as well:
- Build community centers for the communities that want them. Muslim students, students with disabilities, and first-generation/low income students deserve spaces of their own.
- Fund a comprehensive study on student diversity at Stanford, since the last report was published before I was born.
- Hire more professors of underrepresented backgrounds and fields of study in this institution.
- Renovate every Bing Overseas Study Program site so that students with disabilities have the opportunity to study abroad.
These suggestions are by no means exhaustive, and are rooted in my deep interest in developing identity-based communities at Stanford. Each student, faculty, and staff member on this campus certainly has a list of hir own thoughts on how to spend $4.2 million to better this university. I just hope that the Board will check in with members of the Stanford community next time it decides to write such a huge check.
Holly is the ASSU Chair of Communities, working with representatives from across campus to effect change at the university. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.