The other day I was at a small get-together in a friend’s apartment, catching up with friends in my major over EANABs and Easter chocolates. At some point, someone asked, “How was your weekend?” and I commented how much fun the Synergy beach trip had been last weekend. The person I was talking with scoffed and laughed. Before I knew it, the room morphed into a kind of reverse intervention: as people in turn stated their reasons for fearing association with Synergy, I sought to explain how they were misguided or overly dismissive. This instance was not the first time I’d heard these complaints, and it won’t be the last. Hopefully, in honor of the draw season, I can nip some such misconceptions in the bud with my next two articles:
“Ughh, that hill”
Synergy is exactly 53 feet above Campus Drive. If you’ve ever climbed to the garden-roof of Herrin Hall, it’s easier than that. The isolation, by the way, is what makes it such a nice and quiet living space.
“Synergy is crazy”
Unless you have friends in Synergy, the only reason you would ever make that Everestian trek is for the infamous Halloween party. On that night, whatever may happen, the opinion (lore? rumor?) of Synergy is shaped in the minds of the freshmen (who become the sophomores, and the seniors, etc.). Synergy is that nocturnal Addams Family mansion on the hill, rapt in perpetual bass, where someone saw someone forcing a mixed drink on a supine freshman like Harry on Dumbledore in the beginning of the Half Blood Prince. Yeah…no.
Synergy is one of the most serene houses on campus. It is the only “Row” house completely surrounded by trees — to the point that we can’t hear the cars on Campus Drive or Mayfield Row. The house’s strict quiet hours (11-9 on weeknights, 1-11 on weekends, enforced every night but Halloween) quash any attempts at fratting. As I write this article, I am sitting on one of our three sunny porches, listening to the birds as my roommate plays one-on-one soccer on our lawn.
In fact, many Synergy residents dislike our Halloween party. On that night, there are people running up and down the halls, destroying the bathrooms and floors (which the residents clean, not ResEd, remember?), and the residents have no control over when they can go to sleep. It’s downright exhausting.
“Aren’t there animals there?”
Not, like, jaguars and tarantulas. Synergy has six friendly chickens. A couple of our house jobs (some of the most desirable ones, in fact) are dedicated to taking care of the chickens and it’s actually pretty relaxing to grab some feed and go talk with them for a bit. Our animals are the reason people visit, not the reason they stay away.
“Aren’t there, like, seven people to a room?”
People find this notion terrifying, but a lot of people, including me, love it. The communes, as they’re called, are the pride of both Synergy and Columbae.
Part of the intentional and consensual community is feeling comfortable about where you live. So, every quarter we have “rooming meeting,” during which people can rethink (or not rethink; two guys have lived in the same double all three quarters) their living situation. One of the options for living is a commune, in which a five-plus group of people can elect to have two rooms, one of which is used for sleeping and the other for socializing/studying.
Although some people find this system scary, it’s actually quite flexible and convenient. Because of the social room, you never have to work quietly in deference to your roommates. In addition, having a space that’s dedicated entirely to socializing (i.e. no bulky beds lying around) allows for more creativity with the setup: Every quarter, I’ve had a projector and two couches in my room. Because of the fluid roommate situation, residents end up meeting and bonding with more people in the house, which makes for a much more cohesive community. I myself have roomed with nine separate people during my time here, quite happily.
“Why would I cook and clean for myself?”
Well, you’re going to be doing exactly that after you graduate, so why not start learning now? I have learned a number of healthy, easy recipes at Synergy that I know will save me from going out for food later in life. And because everyone is cooking for themselves here, the food is usually really good.
Why would you clean for yourself? Try not to roll your eyes when I say that cleaning jobs have been some of the most fun times I’ve had here. You and three friends put on loud music and enjoy a relaxed and social study-break. When do you get something like that in Crothers?
“The one time I’ve been to Synergy, I saw my freshman RA’s d*ck.”
Nudity seems to be the most misunderstood and widely feared aspect about the house (it’s probably universally misunderstood too, but I’ll save that can of worms for a later article). First of all, about 90 percent of the house is just as nude as you and I are right now (i.e. completely clothed), except perhaps during the few co-op events that specifically encourage nudity like the quarterly “body painting” event at Columbae or Synergy’s Beltane festival in the spring. In other words, the chances of visiting the house and coming across a naked person are very low.
People seem to believe that the remaining 10 percent of residents are constantly nude when they’re at the house. This is also not true. The more-inclined-to-nudity folks of Synergy are just as hairless as anyone else, and thus they get cold when the temperature drops. They do, in fact, own clothes, which they put on when they feel cold. The only time nudity happens on any sort of observable scale is when it’s so hot that the rest of the campus is in bathing suits anyway.
Now, let’s say the planets align and you see a naked person at Synergy. Can we all just be adults for a second? It’s not that big a deal; it’s not even a “way of life”; it’s just a convenience thing; that person is probably just going to grab their laundry, and wanted to wash the clothes they had on as well (I’ve certainly done that). You know that part of Bruno Mars’ “The Lazy Song” where he says “I’ll just strut in my birthday suit and let everything hang loose, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah”? Synergy nudity is just as low-key.
In conclusion, let me assure you that I was no born Synergen. I have become an advocate by choice. A year ago during draw season, I was not so different from you. My roommate and I were drawing in tier 2 and had Branner and Toyon at the top of our list. A couple nights before the housing deadline, I had a talk with my PHE that convinced me to rank some tier 1 coops at the top of our list (I didn’t tell my roommate I’d changed our order because what were the chances we’d get a tier 1 house with tier 2?). I had never even been to Synergy when I got the news that I was going to live here, but it has been one of the greatest adventures of my life. Even my roommate, who was initially sullen because our low draw number would have gotten us a two-room double in Branner, claims that this was one of the best “decisions” of his Stanford career so far, and plans to live here again with his tier 1 draw.
I hope this article illuminates some of the sweetest secrets about the Stanford co-op community (because, honestly, there are a few residents who would prefer that the secret not get out). And if you don’t believe me, consider this article a ticket to come eat dinner at the house — just email me.
Indeed, if you don’t believe Liam Kinney when he waxes poetic on Synergy, he’s happy to continue with you. Drop him a line at liamk “at” stanford.edu.