Broadly Speaking: The Hidden Joys of Third-Tier Housing

Opinion by Molly Spaeth
Jan. 19, 2010, 2:24 a.m.

Let me apologize up front. I’m admitting the inspiration for this forthcoming column came to me approximately 37 seconds ago after a 45-minute run around Campus Drive Loop while listening to “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga on repeat.

I’m apologizing, secondly, because while writing this forthcoming column I’m still listening to “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga on repeat, lest I forget what I wanted to say (my condolences, Faisan third floor).

But that’s exactly where the idea for this piece originated, the same third floor of Faisan that will continue to suffer through the next 25 minutes of the Lady herself as I pump the adrenaline out of my veins and onto my pink keyboard-covered MacBook.

I’m a junior coming back from a fabulous quarter abroad in Madrid, and like most of my fellow returners, I was dropped into third-tier upperclass housing like it’s hot, in a complex I lovingly refer to as the “Flo.” Although I was a little nervous about doing a second year in Florence Moore Hall (I partied with Mirlo sophomore year), I vowed to go into my Faisan homecoming disregarding the less-than-encouraging insights of my fellow jaded juniors.

But what a homecoming it was. Third day back on campus and I had what seemed like every freshman in EastFlo smiling, waving and shouting, “Hey, Molly!” at me in the hallways. Now I’m notoriously bad with names, but their enthusiasm and genuine interest in getting to know me and welcoming me into their freshman community instilled in me an equally genuine interest in wanting to learn more about them.

I remember something my freshman year RA in J-Ro, Laura Holmes ’08, told me: “I love living with freshman,” she said. “My friends are all so jaded and wrapped up in their own personal concerns, but you guys have so much enthusiasm. It’s so refreshing.”

I hate to sound like a naïve idealist, but this was not the only thing Laura ended up being right about (but isn’t that the point of freshman dorm RAs? They’re right about EVERYTHING). What happened to that freshman enthusiasm we seemed to imbibe at nearly every new prospect of Stanford discovery? Participation at class events has been shown to steadily decrease every year and it is a constant struggle for the class cabinet to keep up interest at these events. As a result, you have events leaning steadily toward those that can reel the most people in (like free In-n-Out during finals week) and less toward those with actual substance, like class-wide community service events or academic workshops. And I understand it. If you have similar events you attend with groups you’re more dedicated to, why would you choose to participate in something with random people you don’t know in the Class of Oh-Leven?

Is it, as my beloved editor Zachary Warma put in his Jan. 11 column, that we have just realized that all of those Stanford traditions that were so unique to our class and our class only have been repeated in almost the exact same fashion every year since? Was the inception of our cynicism marked at the first moment we heard Dean Julie tell the Class of Oh-Twelve that THEY were the best class ever, after having heard nothing but the same about the Class of Oh-Leven for the entirety of the year before? Did we get so preoccupied with finishing cover letters for McKinsey’s Summer Business Analyst internship that we’ve lost a genuine interest in each other?

It’s not that we need to be coddled, and I don’t need someone to hold my hand and tell me how special I am every day; I have a mom who does that practically every hour. But something has got to be said for these SLE freshmen, with arguably the worst stereotypical reputation on campus, who go out of their way to welcome an old, jaded, Lady Gaga-loving stranger into their perfect, solidified, third-floor community (and as a former energetic, bright-eyed freshman, you KNOW how strong freshman communities are).

It’s time to go back to the basics. I’m not asking you to de-pledge Pi Phi or boycott your Stanford in Government meetings, but merely to step back and realize that there are about 15,894 other groups on campus that still might be able to enrich your life outside of your entrenched comfort zone, even if you think you don’t need them. You may not need them, but I sure as hell know that a little nudge out of my comfort zone garnered me about 45 new friends and that same freshman-inspired, revitalized enthusiasm I thought I had lost. But in all honesty, the latter just might be the adrenaline talking.

I’ll see you at Junior Formal, Oh-Leven.

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