Stanford does not represent life in the Bay Area

Alberto Mora is currently a graduate student in the Latin American Studies program.

As someone born and raised in the Bay Area, coming to Stanford University as a student can almost feel like being in an entirely different world. The campus itself perpetuates the illusion that the Bay Area is a socially progressive utopia. The harsh reality, however, is that the Bay Area is massively uneven and highly stratified. For example, I was born and raised in Redwood City, a mid-sized suburban town about 10 minutes from campus; However, despite my familiarity and closeness to Palo Alto, I felt like an outsider when I first arrived here. Given Stanford’s global reputation as a top university, as well as its strong ties to Silicon Valley, it’s easy to see why it’s such an attractive choice for many students. Nevertheless, in six months at Stanford, only five of the countless undergraduate and graduate students I met were from the Bay Area. According to Stanford’s Undergraduate Student Profile for Fall 2021, of the 7,645 undergraduate students enrolled, only 36% were from California, while international and out-of-state students made up 64% of the student population. Moreover, the statistics do not reveal what fraction of the 36% of Californian students are actually from the Bay Area. While I am not criticizing the type of student who comes to Stanford, it is important to let Stanford students know that college life is not representative of what many people experience in the Bay.

Perhaps many students know how infamous the San Francisco Bay Area is for its severe housing crisis, but I doubt many actually understand what that entails. Being the son of Mexican immigrants, I grew up in a small unincorporated section of Redwood City known as North Fair Oaks, or as it is colloquially known, “Little Mexico”. Due to its large Mexican/Latin population, North Fair Oaks has been a historically low-income community that for the most part has been segregated from the rest of Redwood City. This is where my parents were able to afford a house; that is, until the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008-2009 and the ensuing recession. Since then, my family and I have moved from apartment to apartment trying to support ourselves during one of the most financially difficult times in US history. By the time I graduated from high school in 2014, and with the onset of economic recovery, we were unable to compete with rising housing costs due to the influx of workers from technology in Silicon Valley; we had no choice but to move to East Bay. Even to this day, the ripple effect of the housing crisis and gentrification is pushing my family out, making it harder to continue living in the Bay Area. To add insult to injury, the last information I heard about my childhood home seized from us in 2010 was that it had sold for $1.3 million a few years later.

Unlike today, many students who find out I’m from here often ask what are the best places to hang out in San Francisco or San Jose, or the best places to eat, or where the best beaches or hiking trails are. hiking. . As someone who had to climb an extremely tall mountain to get here, a place that was figuratively in my backyard but radically beyond my reach, I can’t help but feel a pang of pain and frustration. . Feeling like an outsider or tourist in your own home and neighborhood makes my life experiences and overall existence here feel invalidated or unwanted amid the changing demographics of the Bay Area. That’s not to say that students here are openly oblivious to the greater socioeconomic disparity around the Bay Area; rather, Stanford seems to almost lock students into an environment where most basic necessities and other services like health care, childcare, sports, and other amenities are taken care of in some way. ‘another. Many students spend their time here without ever exploring the “real” Bay Area.

My goal in raising awareness of this issue is not to blame Stanford or make Stanford students feel guilty, but I do think everyone here on campus should take the time to investigate this divide between Stanford and the rest of the bay. To the University’s credit, Stanford appears to be taking steps to close this gap by offering community engagement programs like Cardinal Courses that “engage in projects and partnerships in the community that address social or environmental challenges.” , or by providing internship opportunities at the local middle school. and high school students. Still, I would suggest Stanford students who really want an “authentic” Bay Area experience to physically explore areas that aren’t often advertised on campus. A simple BART ride through Oakland, a trip through East Palo Alto, or a stroll through San Jose’s Alum Rock neighborhood can be an eye-opening experience. It will give you a more real sense of what the Bay Area is like rather than exploring the headquarters of Googleplex, ApplePark, or Facebook.

So when on-campus students often bask in the warm California weather, or bask in the Coupa Café, lament the exorbitant prices at local grocery stores on campus or around Palo Alto, or hike in the Santa Cruz Mountains, please note that there are tangible social inequalities that prevent Bay Area residents from having the same access and privileges as students here at Stanford. As more low-income families and a disproportionate number of mostly minority families in and around the Bay Area are driven from their homes, remember that Stanford does not represent real life in the Bay Area.

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