Bureaucracy is a tool that can empower the collective to accomplish what uncoordinated individuals cannot. In a functional system, the bureaucrats serve their constituents as their rightful duty. Mistakes are inevitable in the pursue of this ultimate goal, for those in office are humans as flawed as you and me. A healthy bureaucracy is one that can justify itself to others when challenged and avoid the messy self-destructive inefficiencies that comes with cover-ups, hypocrisy, and cognitive dissonance. If we think of the relationship between the bureaucracy and the people as symbiotic, then actions that prioritize the interest of the bureaucrats ahead of the people produce short-term gains at the cost of the long-term vibrancy, and perhaps even viability, of the entire community.
Stanford University is a bureaucracy and that is not necessarily a bad thing. By most measures, it is an extremely successful one that has done an excellent job of providing a conducive environment for talented individuals to share their ideas and do great things. However, like all bureaucracy, it is not perfect.
This afternoon, a crowd of Stanford students gathered at the White Plaza to protest the university’s decision not to renew the contract of the student-run Dining Societies that have served the residents of Governor’s Corner for the past 30 years, with a record that by all accounts is (at the very least) above average for an organization of its nature. The details of this on-going dispute are covered in great details in Miles Unterreiner’s multi-part Daily article. Students who live in the suites are overwhelming opposed to the loss of this unique part of their house identity and many are upset that the decision by Residential Education was only communicated after the fact, leaving no room for students to voice their clear opposition to the change.