Cardinal Nights brings in comedian Chris Hardwick, alcohol-free programming

Oct. 16, 2014, 9:15 p.m.

Chris Hardwick, a popular comedian on Comedy Central and other programs, will be performing at Cemex Auditorium tonight as part of the programming for this year’s Cardinal Night, which focuses on creating alcohol-free events for students. The administration is hopeful that the popularity of the performer has the potential to expand Cardinal Night’s scope and attract more students who would otherwise not be interested.

Ralph Castro, the associate dean and director of Office of Alcohol Policy and Education (OAPE), aims for Hardwick’s show to be the most popular thus far this year. Tickets sold out on Tuesday, hours after they were opened to student reservations.

“We want them to be high-demand, premium events,” Castro said about the types of events they are trying to create. “We want them to rival and surpass the drinking culture.”

Right now, Hardwick is on the rise with a hit show on Comedy Central and a growing fan base. On a student survey conducted by OAPE before the start of fall quarter, students were given the option to choose from a compiled list of potential events for the year. Students were also able to vote for performers they wanted to see on campus, and Hardwick was the second-most popular choice.

“I’ve seen Chris Hardwick on Comedy Central,” said Josh Seawell ’18, for whom the show on Friday will be the first Cardinal Night event he attends. “He’s always super funny and has the best guests.”

Seawell went to high school in Germany where the legal drinking age is 16 but he chose to not drink when he turned 16. For him, he “can really relate to what that’s like for other people” to try and find “non-drinking things to do.”

The student survey that OAPE sent out at the end of the summer helped the Cardinal Nights staff decide what types of events to hold for the next year, and student staff who work for OAPE facilitated communication with the student body as well.

Students are “more likely to talk to a colleague or a student versus a professional staff member,” explained Trista Shideler, the assistant director and student engagement coordinator for OAPE.

Cardinal Nights was started in the fall of 2011 after a committee created by the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education recommended providing more opportunities for alcohol-free programming on campus. The program is relatively unusual compared to Stanford’s peer institutions.

According to Shideler, there aren’t “too many people within the Ivy League community that are doing what we’re doing.” For inspiration, they look at larger state schools like San Diego State University, which has an alcohol-free organization similar to Cardinal Nights.

In an effort to reach as many students as possible, Cardinal Nights programming is intentionally varied and diverse.

“We don’t want Cardinal Nights to be a certain niche,” Shideler said. “We want it to be open to everybody and feel like everybody has an event or two.”

Some events, Shideler said, attract up to 1,500 attendees, while others are kept smaller and more intimate, hosting as few as 20 people. The Fall Carnival, which is held every year on the first day of classes, usually draws between 1,200 and 1,500 people. Build-A-Bear is another well-attended event, with 250 to 500 participants.

The most popular types of Cardinal Night events in recent years have been shows by comedians and other performers like Hardwick. Registration for Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance show last year was so popular that the website crashed. When registration for Ansari’s show opened, 2,000 students went on the website and tried to reserve 700 spots. Some students were frustrated after the website crashed and they were left without tickets, but Cardinal Nights was able to find seats for those who were on the waitlist.

Castro described the student response to events like Chris Hardwick and Aziz Ansari as “very positive,” adding that, “I think students are excited that Stanford is investing in…programs that bring big names to them.”

He plans to continue to build on that enthusiasm for alcohol-free programming, suggesting guests in the future could include more comedians, YouTube stars and anyone “outside the box.”

Starting this fall, Cardinal Nights is implementing a loyalty program, which gives students the ability to sign in to certain events and get credit for attending. Castro said that they’re also expanding programming to provide more opportunities for graduate students, starting with Movie Night this Saturday, for which Cardinal Nights is offering a shuttle stop specifically for graduate students.

“For us, we’re involved in the educational milieu, but our mission is to provide fun, social events, without necessarily any educational aspect, so it’s kind of fun,” he added. “We’ve got free reign [over the types of events we have].”

Contact Sarah Wishingrad at swishing ‘at’

Sarah Wishingrad '18 is a former Desk Editor for the University/Local beat. She is a History major from Los Angeles, California who loves politics, the waffles at Coupa, and all things Jane Austen. Ask her about her dog, Hamilton, at swishing 'at'

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