How Stanford Lost Its Soul - 2020-05-20
Stanford University enjoys an international reputation for excellence and an endowment of more than $27 billion, making it the third-wealthiest private school in America. The endowment lags behind only Harvard and Yale. In some ways, Stanford's wealth is all more impressive since, unlike its venerable Ivy League rivals, the school itself is the very source of its own fortune. The campus is surrounded by Big Tech firms that were more or less created by its former students. Start at the center of Stanford and head north to go to Facebook, south to hit Apple, east to run into Google. The close proximity is no accident: Silicon Valley is the child of Stanford. Big Tech, out of filial gratitude, is always happy to lavishly fund its alma mater.
But during the current pandemic, Stanford is making a mark for something less admirable than birthing the tech revolution. Stanford has become the main academic vector for contrarian Covid-19 thinking, helping give legitimacy to arguments that the world is overreacting to the virus.
In March, Richard Epstein, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, a Stanford-affiliated think tank, published an influential article arguing that America could expect only around 500 deaths from the pandemic. He later revised that number to 5,000. Still later, he said he meant 50,000. Even that number, of course, is far short of the more than 93,000 Americans who have already died of Covid-19—a figure that itself is almost certainly an undercount.