Editorial Board: Stanford should combat the sophomore and junior year slump in social support

May 31, 2018, 10:00 p.m.

Ahh, senior spring — when everyone’s weekend calendars are packed with darties, formals, boat trips, special Ds, Crepe Night. The sudden influx of social activity, especially compared with winter quarter, contributes the most to the joyful memories of spring quarter, almost as much as the reemergence of sun.

Seniors continue to meet fresh faces at every senior night and all-campus. A common sentiment is astonishment at where these people have been for the last four years, and curiosity at why we don’t have more of these events throughout the Stanford experience.

Freshman year is outrageously fun and exciting — tight dorm communities, the exhilaration of a new school to explore. Senior year is comparatively carefree (for those of us who have post-graduation plans locked down) and tinged with rosy nostalgia.

But the sophomores and juniors? You find them hunkering down in Green on a sunny Saturday, feverishly typing out a PWR paper or studying for an exam.

Sophomore burnout, or what Stanford likes to call the “sophomore slump,” is well-documented and a matter of concern among the administration. Undergraduate Advising and Research has devoted a fair amount of funding and attention to attempting to solve the problem. There’s the ongoing revamp of the PMA program and the peer mentorship program, currently in its pilot phase. Community centers, like the Asian American Activities Center, have their own sophomore mentorship programs with faculty and staff.

Yet the fact remains that support for sophomores is a work in progress. And while efforts have been made to enhance the academic safety net (despite a scarcely populated and generic advising site), there hasn’t been much done for the social life of sophomores. The sophomore class is the only one that doesn’t get its own formal.

Juniors have it slightly better, with junior formal at the end of the year, but even then, the limited number of tickets available this year meant that many juniors were left out. Apart from events like Cardinal Nights and dorm Special Ds that are open to all classes, sophomores and juniors don’t have much going on. There’s a hefty social calendar and community that comes with joining Greek life, but an equally hefty social dues fee can become prohibitive. There isn’t much infrastructure for students to build the social connections and support networks that help them through the middle years at Stanford, when it can be easiest to lose direction and confidence.

The shift in social infrastructure both reflects and contributes to a shift in students’ attitudes. We stop asking the random person we sit down next to in class what they’re majoring in and where they’re from; our social lives narrow down to select groups, our friends already in place. Much of this attitude change is expected, the natural result of settling into campus. But something is also lost — amid this more siloed culture, some students feel isolated, and we stop making the new connections that can change and deepen our college experience.

Why do we bookend students’ Stanford experiences with years of intraclass bonding, but leave them out in the cold in between? Why do we overlook investment in social activity as a key to helping students succeed?

Here’s a simple request: more equitable distribution of social funds throughout undergraduates’ four years. For the Class of 2018, social activities were funded by $34,000 that came from “savings” — the pool of funding that all student groups get from ASSU Special Fees. This was collected during freshman year, and stored until this year.

Instead of cramming senior year with events that aren’t the most well-attended (here’s looking at you, senior night two days before senior formal) or planning events that cost $100 to attend (the senior class spent $90,000 on formal), let’s have some more small events sophomore and junior year. It can be as simple as subsidizing coffees at CoHo, a low-key but popular senior event this year. And maybe we could even have more than one drink ticket at senior formal? Maybe.


Contact the Vol. 253 Editorial Board at opinions ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

Editorials represent the views of The Stanford Daily, an independent newspaper serving Stanford and the surrounding community. The Daily's Editorial Board consists of President and Editor-in-Chief Hannah Knowles '19, Executive Editor Fangzhou Liu '19, Managing Editor of Opinions Regan Pecjak '18, Senior Staff Writer Samantha Wong '18 and Opinions columnist and Managing Editor of Graphics Josh Wagner '20. To contact the Editorial Board, submit an op-ed (limited to 700 words) at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor (limited to 500 words) at [email protected].

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