You've been taught all along that education is something that someone does for you, that teachers educate. A better way of understanding it is that education is something that takes place in your own mind, and things outside of that serve only as stimuli. What this means is that the university exists around students, that without students there is no university.
Universities must see themselves as large apparatuses which are largely sideshows to education. Real education is taking place among students.
The university belongs to students. Anyone who maintains a hold on this university must justify their position in the face of students. Anyone from the lowest teaching assistant to the president has to be able to stand up to students and explain what they're doing, how they are doing it, and how this affects education. This is the yardstick that any university must be run by, but very few universities are.
You're going find yourselves in structures which have all told you up to this point that you don't have the right to inflict yourself upon that structure, that the structure exists above and beyond you. I'm saying that's not true.
This is your university. If there is anyone who has the right to speak out in this university, that has the right to examine this university, it's the student.
The university is asking you to be dependent upon it. I'm saying that education is fundamentally based on independence. You're not going to find yourself free until you find yourselves in a position where you can stand up to the University and tell it to chuck itself into the lake. None of you is going to start being educated until you're in a position where you could just as easily drop out of this university.
All of us here have a magnificent opportunity — and it's not just an opportunity for some kind of political action, it's much, much more than that. You have a decision about how you want to live your lives.
—Address of David Harris, Stanford University Student Body President,
to the Freshman Class of '70. September 22, 1966.
Excerpted from The Stanford Daily