Stanford Review Indicted

February 6, 2006

Stanford’s Organizational Conduct Board (OCB) started a formal investigation of The Stanford Review after the publication distributed door-to-door throughout dorms in the eastern part of campus on Saturday, January 21, 2006.

Jane Camarillo, Director of Residential Education (ResEd) filed a complaint with the OCB, alleging that several members of The Review openly violated the Soto, Serra House, Trancos, and Larkin North and West distribution policies. All of these residences officially do not allow door-to-door distribution in their halls.

Meanwhile, the University’s General Counsel has begun to discuss the legality of the current policy with ResEd. Many believe that disallowing door-to-door distribution on the whims of RFs (the faculty Resident Fellow that lives in the dorms) endangers first amendment rights.

The Review distributed its last issue door-to-door after a quorum of editors and writers concluded that the University had made little progress in changing the current policy—which the paper believes to be unjust. ResEd currently restricts publications from distributing their issues door-to-door unless a dormitory’s RF explicitly allows it. Few dorms currently allow door-to-door distribution; Arroyo, Burbank, Donner, Castaño, FroSoCo, Robinson, Potter, and West FloMo are among them.

Five members of The Review distributed around one thousand issues door-to-door during the January 21 campaign. Issues were distributed throughout Branner, Manzanita Park, Stern, and Wilbur. Residence staff posed major opposition in Cedro, Soto, and Serra. RAs on the first floor of Cedro threatened to pick-up the papers just distributed. The staff at Soto made and carried-out a similar threat. Serra RF Ross Shachter debated distributors on the policy’s merits and collected their names .

Shortly after distribution commenced, Camarillo warned other RFs of The Review ’s activities by e-mail. Due to the immense opposition to the distribution effort, The Review decided not to distribute door-to-door through the rest of campus.

The distribution on January 21 followed a string of events that occurred after a majority of students supported an advisory referendum to change the distribution policy in last year’s Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) election. In response to the referendum, the ASSU Senate met with RFs, ResEd, and passed a bill asking for a change in the policy. Since then, The Review published an op-ed and news piece about the policy. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) subsequently cited the news article in a “spotlight” on Stanford. Yet, after all of these efforts, the policy remains intact.

Many individuals and organizations outside of The Review also disagree with ResEd’s door-to-door distribution policy. In an interview with The Review for a previous article on distribution, ASSU Senate Chair Chris Nguyen zealously supported overturning the policy: “ResEd’s home page says it wants to prepare students ‘for a life of leadership, intellectual engagement, citizenship and service.’ These qualities can only be instilled in people who have been exposed to a diversity of opinion.” ASSU Senators Andrew Hendel and Rong Xu have also expressed support for allowing door-to-door distribution.

The Stanford Progressive, the liberal-leaning publication of Stanford, also supports allowing door-to-door. “The current distribution policy is honestly unfair to both the student at Stanford and the student publications,” said The Progressive’s Editor-in-Chief Vilas Rao in an interview with The Review. “Students are paying each quarter to support many publications at Stanford and yet many students have yet to see many of the publications they fund because the present distribution policy prevents delivery to their doors. If nothing else, students should be the ones to decide if they would like to see publications at their doorsteps, not administrators.”

Although The Progressive plans to respect the current policy and only distribute door-to-door in the dorms that explicitly allow it, the paper understands The Review’s misconduct. “I sympathize with The Review’s decision to ignore the policy,” said Rao. “The current distribution policy hurts the readership of student publications: plain and simple.”

The Review’s violation of the policy spawned a long and complicated process. After Camarillo filed a formal complaint with the OCB, Assistant Dean of Students Morris Graves initiated an investigation. According to OCB protocol, an appointed investigator will interview individuals involved with the allegation. Most likely, Graves will subsequently schedule a hearing, where a panel of students and administrators can review the investigation material. The panel will make a recommendation of action to the appropriate administrator.

There are a variety of sanctions that the University can impose on The Review. It can require The Review to issue a formal apology, attend leadership workshops, pay restitution, or perform community service.

To deal with door-to-door distribution concerns and the OCB process, The Review recently created an independent committee, The Stanford Review Distribution Commission (SRDC). The SRDC meets periodically to discuss innovative solutions to distribution. The members also look at legal issues, public relations, and fundraising for the distribution battle. The SRDC hosts a website (linked to The Review’s) that provides outsiders and Stanford affiliates with information on the current policy. A petition is also available for visitors to sign. The SRDC and other publications plan to exert significant energy towards altering the current policy. Vigorously, many members of student publications are beginning to subscribe to the ideology of “door-to-door or bust.”

Schools: Stanford University