Sunday, November 26, 2006


Many of the great rivalries are fundamentally class rivalries - the "big-city" university v the land grant agriculture college. This is what fuels Alabama/Auburn, or Oregon/OSU. Some are even about religion (BYU/Utah) or fashion (USC/UCLA).

Cal/Stanford is the only great rivalry that's fundamentally about ideology. And by ideology, we don't mean the traditional left-right distinction - Stanford's a good bit more conservative than Cal, but they're both squarely in God-hating commie territory.

No, the ideology at play here is authoritarianism. Cal teaches its own to question authority by imposing a faceless, soul-crushing bureaucracy upon its students. No classes? Tough shit. No housing? There's always co-ops. Want the personal touch? Try getting to know your 1200 classmates in Anthro 1. Four years at Berkeley feels like a Kafka novel - you come out with a perhaps too-healthy skepticism of professors, administrators, Presidents and the like.

Stanford is a school next to a mall and some golf courses that is populated by cheerful authority figures who want to like you. They serve as your counselor, and help you choose your classes. They arrange comfy dorm rooms, and social events with your fellow fascinating students drawn from all parts of the country. They want you to succeed, because you're one of them - the few, the proud, the elites. Isn't it grand?

Serenity Now

You exit Stanford feeling really, really good about yourself. You exit Berkeley happy to have survived the experience. Berkeley is exhilirating; Stanford is pleasant. Both sets of alumni run the world, but only one group of alumni feels entitled to.

Leland Stanford didn't attend the university that bears his name. He simply founded it - with money stolen from the pockets of the good men and women of California, on the backs of Chinese immigrants that his railroad literally worked to death. Want to know why our State Capitol is in Sacramento? Because Leland Stanford's railroad was going to end there, and because he said so. The California built by Stanford and his fellow Robber Barons was, in essence, a kleptocracy benefiting the elites at the expense of the masses. After all - they deserved it.

The University of California, by contrast, was established by Governor Frederick Low in 1868 with the passage of the Organic Act. UC was designed on the University of Michigan model and sought to make higher education available to all residents of the state, regardless of their ability to pay.

Prominent Stanford alumni in the corporate world include Steve Ballmer, Phil Knight - uber-elites. Cal has Steve Wozniak, who did all the hard work at Apple and then retired to do philanthropy instead of press conferences, and the Haas family, noted for their pursuit of business ethics.

Cal has Alice Waters, Timothy Leary, Joan Didion - slightly kooky trailblazers in their respective fields. Stanford has Herbert Hoover, who couldn't be bothered with all that talk of a Great Depression, and Gray Davis, who never left his office to notice the State collapsing around him. Elites. Cal's Laura Tyson is famous for presiding over the great Clinton economic run of the 1990s as head of the CEA and NEC. Stanford's Condi Rice is famous for presiding over the collapse of the world.

Some may look on this as a false distinction between two privileged groups, but we disagree. The ideology that separates Cal and Stanford, Berkeley and Palo Alto, rugged individualism and elitist group-think is what brings the taste of bile to our lips every time we see that dancing tree.

It's not jealousy, it's resentment - and there's a difference. You see, we know those smug, snarky clowns in red and white are someday going to fuck up the entire world, and we're not happy about it.


At 2:26 PM, Blogger California Pete said...

Brilliant! That general culture of country-club entitlement is, I believe, precisely why the whole Stanford Band concept doesn't work. Rather than clever satire, their "band" (mob is probably a better word) comes off as a bunch of snotty, spoiled, and very, very bored children. If "Stanford Band" were a movie starring, say, Jack Black (UCLA dropout) or Johnny Knoxville (son of a Tennessee used-car dealer), I'd love it. But as a student group that purportedly represents one of the world's finest institutions of higher education, and a group whose primary stage just might be more bound by tradition than any other--halftime of a college football game--they're just pathetic.

At 8:53 PM, Blogger T. said...

I would say something more, but I just wrote my application essays for Stanford Business School, so I shall refrain from cursing that institution. (Until they reject me, that is).

At 9:07 PM, Blogger Tightwad said...

T, graduate school at Stanford is perfectly acceptable. By that point you've formed sufficient critical thinking skills to endure a couple of years on the Farm.

At 7:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Man --just get over it !!

At 8:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


For more reasons Stanfurd sucks, just stop by here:

Go Bears.

At 11:58 AM, Blogger California Pete said...

interesting you brought up the Stanford B-school. Otherwise highly regarded, and rightly so, it barely cracked the Top 20 of a recent Wall Street Journal poll of corporate recruiters. The problem? In the words of one respondent:
"Annoying sense of entitlement; limited work ethic"
Statements like this can easily become overgeneralization, but it's awfully hard to not conclude that such an attitude has become endemic on the Farm. Annoying to be sure, and dangerous when it seeps into the halls of power. (And Cal's not immune to it either, but four humbling-and-enlightening years in Berkeley seems to cure most of us of that ailment.)

At 11:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did Stanford ever have a Naked Guy equivalent? I guess they have the Hoover Phallus (I mean, tower) to compensate.

The most ironic thing I can think of is that I once attended a Grateful Dead concert on the Stanford campus while I was a student at Cal.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Tightwad said...

Hey, Dead shows at Frost were great. One of the few redeeming things about that campus, socially speaking.

At 9:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey... great string of comments. I went to check out Stanford for college over a decade ago. All I can remember was some very smart woman (attractive, mind you) telling me that studying was lame and that they try to spend as much time throwing the frisbee as possible. I didn't get it. Fun is a key element of college, plus beer drinking, but becoming a faux waste-oid in denial about who you are didn't seem like the path to enlightenment.

At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Total nonsense written by someone who never went to Stanford, is still butt-hurt about it, and hasn't taken the time to actually learn anything about the University. For example, Stanford is named after the railroad magnate's son, Leland Jr., not the father. Leland Jr. died of typhoid and his parents--Leland Sr. AND Jane, an independent-minded woman who arguably had more impact on the character of the school than her husband--founded the University in his memory.
The choice of alumni to highlight is particularly suspect. Why not mention the Google founders? They're pretty independent-minded, wouldn't you say?
Look, Stanford's a great school and Berkeley's a great school. They both produce a huge diversity of graduates with a variety of intellectual styles and ideological leanings. Both schools produce brilliant people, and both have produced complete d-bags. Quit trying to come up with ways to prove Berkeley students are somehow cooler, more interesting, or better people than Stanford students, and quit trying to pretend you wouldn't have gone to Stanford had you gotten in (take solace in the fact that admissions decisions are to a great extent arbitrary). It just makes you look pathetic.

At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To "Anonymous" who wrote at 3:38. I could not disagree more on the issue of character of the body of students who go to each school. I spent time, education wise, at both schools. I was a tour guide at Berkeley and spent a lot of time with tour guides at Stanford, so I do know a great deal about both schools.

Stanford students predominantly come from richer families. More often that not Stanford students go into finance jobs while Berkeley has more alumni in the non profit sector in the nation.

But you may say ones profession is not an indication of ones character and you are right. I love how Stanford students, home to the offices of Condi and Rumsfeld, bring up Google as their display of benevolence. That just irks me.

In life there are people who make an organization or institution or people who go to an org or institution to be great. Stanford students and Google employees (who get most their emp. From Stanford fit into that group).

For every green initiative Google has sponsored they have a carbon footprint 5x larger. Google is the king in shipping jobs overseas. And everyone who knows the founders think their pricks. Want to learn about not having people hold your hand. Google and Stanford ate not the place.

I got into Stanford, I got into Cal and when I went to check out both schools there was no sense of unique perspective from any of the Stanford students who I met. How can you when you expect an institution to give it to you?

There was never a free speech movement at Stanforf, never an Oppenheimer, never multiple table of elements found at Stanford, heck there's no Gregory Peck, and we liked football before with out being given free tickets from a rich dude.

Stanford has its many strong qualities, but none of it is derived from the student body.

At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure what any of this means... but the line is still 19.5 points, right? --Stanford guy

P.S. Ironically, Stanford got it start because of working roots. The Stanfords went to Harvard to make a donation in their son's name... but, showing up in work clothes -- since, ultimately, they were working people -- the president of Harvard thought they were hicks and was incredibly disrespectful to them. When Mrs. Stanford asked the Harvard president about how much it cost to run Harvard, he pompously answered something like, "we have the largest endowment in the world at $7m"... to which Mrs. Stanford said, "is that all? Come on, Leland, we can build our own university." And, in true entrepreneurial fashion, off they went.

At 9:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget Earl Warren.

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