Last week Stanford University students elected a new government led by a coalition calling itself “Fun Strikes Back.” You won’t have caught this development in the mainstream news, though it was noticed by the distinctly non-mainstream press — outlets such as Pirate Wires and OutKick. It is, however, a very significant event. One of the most important American universities that has spent a generation groaning under the dour, self-righteous domination of progressive virtue-signaling witnessed a rebellion. Students rose up and demanded a campus social life free from the onerous control of the university’s moralistic busybodies.
Sure, the women in Iran tearing off the hijabs are taking bigger risks, but the Stanford students are to be congratulated for re-discovering the idea that they can take responsibility for themselves. The “Fun Strikes Back” candidates, junior Sophia Danielpour and sophomore Kyle Haslett, crushed their opponents (2,072 to 1,400), two incumbents who spoke the language of “safe spaces” and “accessibility to affordable groceries.”
Elections always and everywhere involve personalities as well as platforms, and a few minutes of listening to the student government presidential debate would probably convince most people that Ms. Danielpour is indeed more fun than her opponent Christian Sanchez. No offense to Mr. Sanchez. He comes across as a well-meaning fellow, but as someone wholly at home with the university bureaucracy.
Student elections are hardly the stuff of national news. What does it matter what a few thousand Stanford students did during a campus election? One answer, of course, is that Stanford most recently featured in the news when on March 9, some seventy Law School students abetted by Tirien Steinbach the school’s associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, prevented Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan from speaking at a Federalist Society-sponsored event. The disruption was judged insufferable by many observers, including the editorial board at the Wall Street Journal which admonished, “The Tyranny of the DEI Bureaucracy” and even the Chronicle of Higher Education, which headlines its account “Stanford Law Students’ Infantile Protests: Their Hypersensitive Activism Will Not Make Them Good Lawyers.”
Water under the bridge perhaps. Dean Steinbach was suspended. Red-face Law Dean Jenny Martinez and Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne rushed in with assurances that Stanford still stands four-square for intellectual freedom — though naturally not to the degree that any of the disruptive students needed to be held accountable.
Their platform was titled, “Where Did the Fun Go?”
I see no direct evidence that Stanford students ruminated on the Judge Duncan affair when they went to the polls on April 14 and 15. But the atmosphere is hard to miss. Stanford’s brigades of ultra-woke graduate students had once again beclowned the university with their over-the-top self-righteousness. This could only have underscored the message of the “Fun Strikes Back” crowd. “Fun Strikes Back” wasn’t out to defend Judge Duncan or to scold anyone for stiff-backed political posturing. Their message was that the meddling administrators have “disrupted the organic, wacky and inclusive spontaneity that made Stanford so special.” Their platform was titled, “Where Did the Fun Go?”
I’m not entirely sure that Stanford was ever that much fun, but I’ll credit Danielpour and Haslett with two shrewd moves. First, they blamed the obnoxious administrators rather than their sanctimonious fellow students. Second, they evoked an appealing image of a mythical past. Who would want to deny the “organic, wacky and inclusive spontaneity” of yesteryear other than the Puritanical, straightlaced scowlers of today? Danielpour and Haslett wrongfooted their opponents from the start.
I’d say there was something Trumpian about this approach, but I doubt that was a conscious choice. There is no indication that the Fun Party (if I can call it that) had any political leanings. They want more and livelier parties unhindered by bureaucratic folderol. They want the restoration of Stanford traditions such as “Full Moon on the Quad” and “Secret Snowflake,” whatever those are. Stanford girls — and boys — just wanna have fun, though Cyndi Lauper’s forty-year old song surely isn’t their anthem.
Let me change the subject. I have been busy lately divesting myself of stuff older even than Lauper’s song. One item I’ve kept from childhood was my 1950s vintage model Lionel train set, which I’ve stored away for decades in perfect condition. I inquired in a model train store in Manhattan as to its resale value, but the figure the gimlet-eyed proprietor stuck me as too low for something so saturated with warm childhood memories. I put the matter aside. Then a few weeks ago I met a man who works in construction in New Hampshire. Sean is dating my wife’s niece, and has a five-year-old son, Beckett — named after that most-dour of Irish writers, Samuel — and he mentioned that his son had wanted a model train set for his birthday, but he hadn’t been able to find one he could afford.
It was an opportunity not to be missed. I gave him the train set and two days later he sent me a video of Beckett squealing in sheer delight as the train raced around its antique track.
I can think of few things that have given me so much pleasure in the last several years.
Fun indeed “Strikes Back.” It strikes forward too. If we are ever to defeat the somber totalitarianism that has seeped into the souls of so many of today’s young people, it will take the re-discovery of something like “organic, wacky and inclusive spontaneity,” or model trains, or the joy of five-year olds before they have been scolded into worries over global warming, racism, pandemics, capitalism or whatever other condemnations come next. Fun can’t be prescribed, but it can discovered. Thank you Sophia and Kyle for that.