Opinion: Step aside Stanford, this is Paly territory too

Kate Marinkovich, Author

Stanford football games are a popular aspect of our Palo Alto culture. On game days you see freckles of red and white lining the sidewalks for hours before the game even starts. You can hear the screams and shouts of excited tailgate’s as fans eagerly prep for the day’s game. Whenever there is a Stanford football game, everyone in town knows.

Today, the Cardinal is playing the Oregon Ducks. But as I’m sure all of you already know: this game’s happening has been evident for weeks. Maybe it was the traffic barriers placed at busy intersections that let you know today, or perhaps it was the increase in police cars patrolling the areas immediately around Stanford Stadium. It could have been the red- and white- or green- and yellow-clad students running around campus today, expressing spirit for their respective teams. Maybe it was the sign hanging above the exit at Trader Joe’s. But what let me know that the Stanford game was here were the constant reminders to get off campus by 2:30 p.m.

They have been in my email inbox, on the doors of the library, on inFocus and in reminders from teachers. And I have to say, I am slightly irked.

There are flaws in the reasoning behind asking students to leave campus, and I am surprised at the administration’s willingness to do so. By closing the library early, and asking teachers to leave campus early, they are restricting student’s access to their learning facility. By encouraging students to leave campus immediately after school, they are putting across the message that despite your educational needs, the school must put those of a community event before them.

The email Assistant Principal Victoria Kim sent out this past Monday to Palo Alto High School families stated: “We strongly suggest that all students leave campus by 2:30, after advisory, to avoid the traffic jam.” For reasons pertaining to safety, I entirely support this suggestion. Traffic on Stanford game days is horrendous at best; roads are shut down, parking is limited and there are pedestrians and bicycles on every shoulder. Students, and their rides, should definitely should be extra cautious getting home, but it is important to keep in mind that they are not being released into a zoo of unregulated traffic . There are police at every  intersection surrounding the stadium. They are there to protect the safety of game-goers and other pedestrians, including students getting home from school. While maybe it would be easiest for students to leave campus immediately after school ends, their safety is protected no matter what.

So while I understand the safety perspective that calls for students leaving campus early, there is a logical counter that would provide a basis to allow students to stay on campus. And sure, there are other factors that may have been calculated into the decision to ask students to leave, most revolving around making sure the Stanford Parking fundraiser Paly holds can be successful. For every teacher car occupying a parking spot, that is $20 less toward student clubs. However, there are counters to this point as well. I have worked at Stanford Parking before, and up until start time there are cars looking for spots. If a teacher leaves campus an hour into the fundraiser, or even two, the spot would still be sold, and the teacher would have also provided the academic opportunities otherwise oppressed by the 2:30 p.m. “final bell.”

At 2:30 p.m., campus should not shut down. Teachers should not go home early because of traffic, and the library should not close immediately. By doing so, the Paly faculty is putting the needs of the community before the needs of the students. Their duty as teachers and as administrators is to provide the academic atmosphere that will allow their students to succeed. By closing campus unofficially, they are terminating the opportunities that students expect to receive from their schools. If a student needs after-school help, they are being discouraged to seek it, and to me this is a message the Paly faculty does not want to send to their students. As a school, the needs of the students should outweigh those of the community.

The reasoning behind the administration’s actions this week is mostly just in its regard to student safety; however, the benefits are slim, and to close the school in response to these is unfair to the students. But if we must make the best of this situation, I hope you all go home and put on your Stanford (or Oregon) gear, and get ready for a great game. Go Stanford!