Tales from Governor’s Corner: good vibes, fictitious plagues and a water crisis

Dec. 2, 2021, 10:14 p.m.

Here’s the deal with Governor’s Corner, or, if you don’t want to sound like a frosh wandering campus for the first time, “GovCo” — it’s far. Tucked into the bottom-left corner of the Stanford map, the residence hall is almost an entire mile from Main Quad and twice that distance from the football stadium. Living in GovCo, as the joke goes, is like going to a commuter school. Nobody ever goes to GovCo and nothing ever happens there.

At least, that’s one story. The other story, which seems to have been brought to life with this year’s crop of freshmen, is one of debauchery. The first week of classes brought blaring ambulances and an influx of alcohol poisoning cases, all purportedly centered around GovCo. The coming weeks brought a supposed norovirus outbreak, an endlessly ridiculed moment on social media that came to be known by many names, including “GovCovid,” “Govid-21” and simply the “GovCo Plague.”

So which is the real GovCo? For its non-residents, the answer can be considered a sort of Schrödinger’s cat: GovCo is both dead and thriving at the same time. But what about for the people who actually live there?

Ishaan Singh ’24, a residential assistant (RA) at one of GovCo’s dorms, Robinson, laughs when he hears this question. 

“There’s two extremes,” Singh said. “People like to joke about GovCo being dead when it’s not, and people like to joke about GovCo being wild when that’s not true either. People just like to have fun here.”

In fact, Singh said, living in Robinson has allowed him to engage with one of the most supportive yet exciting environments he’s ever been a part of. Singh describes Robinson as a place where “everyone can have fun while still respecting other people’s boundaries,” a culture that he credits the dorm’s newly all-frosh residents for fostering. 

“Robinson used to be an upper-class dorm,” Singh said. “I can’t say this for sure but with everyone being so much older, it probably wasn’t always this energetic.”

All four dorms within GovCo’s Sterling Quad — Adams, Potter, Robinson and Schiff — are all-frosh this year, a change instituted by Stanford’s new ResX residential system. However, traces of GovCo’s past as an upper-class hub can be seen on the ResEd website. Robinson House, for instance, is still described as an “all upper-class dorm” that tends to be “studious and quiet.” 

But all of this is in the past now, said Roya Ahmadi ’25, a resident at Robinson. Ahmadi acknowledged GovCo’s reputation for being “dead and out of the way,” but also mentioned that its frosh residents are actively trying to change that reputation. While the residence hall is still a little isolated from the rest of campus, Ahmadi admitted, that particular part of the GovCo experience has been exaggerated by other students. 

“Overall, I’ve really enjoyed living at GovCo,” Ahmadi said. “The community here has been so wonderful.”

Stanford too appears to be engaged in an attempt to change GovCo’s reputation, as its decision to introduce additional all-frosh housing this year seems like an exercise in social psychology. According to its website, the University was inspired by the research of Jamil Zaki, an associate professor of psychology who “demonstrated that students in our all-frosh dorms have more interconnected social networks and report greater well-being than first-year students in some of our other residential environments.”

For Angelina Krinos ‘25, another Robinson resident, GovCo’s new reputation for being a “party hub” may stem from a perception that Stanford’s gamble has paid off too well.

“I think it’s the notion of a bunch of irresponsible children living in one place,” Krinos said. “People thought that because there would be so many frosh, it would lead to disaster.”

And has it led to disaster?

“Not at all. Compared to other dorms, the amount of activity here is pretty average. Honestly, it’s pretty chill.”

Most of the rumors surrounding GovCo, according to Krinos, are hyperbolic. Parties happen at GovCo, but not more so than at any other spaces on campus. The distance from GovCo to the rest of campus is long but not ridiculously so. Sometimes rumors can even be completely made-up, such as with the case of the so-called “GovCo Plague.”

“That was entirely false,” said Vanessa Chen ’25, a resident at Potter. “There were some people who got mildly sick but that was it.”

It all started, Chen said, with a karaoke on-call hosted by Potter’s RAs. With people singing karaoke through the night, naturally there were a few sore throats and runny noses the following morning. The idea of the “Potter Plague,” as Chen called it, only took off when a Potter resident posted about the on-call’s aftermath on Buzz, a social media app popular among Stanford students. The rumor exploded across campus, and GovCo’s reputation as Stanford’s virus petri dish was sealed.

Amy Chang ’25, another Robinson resident, tells a slightly different story, saying that while the “plague” was almost assuredly not norovirus, she did know of a few “really bad” cases where people got sick.

”It was probably just food poisoning,” Chang said. “But obviously it was overplayed, right? For the meme.” 

The only real issue with GovCo, according to its residents, is something not common knowledge across campus or on social media — their lack of water access.

“We have no water bottle fillers,” Chang said. “We had entire dorm government campaigns centered around the issue of providing water to people.”

Krinos echoed Chang’s comments, expressing frustration at the fact that a university as prestigious as Stanford couldn’t afford to provide water fountains for its residents.

“I feel dehydrated all the time,” Krinos said. “We’ve been using tap water from the dorm kitchen and Ricker [Dining Hall].”

On the whole, though, the GovCo experience doesn’t seem to be too far removed from the culture at any other residence hall. More importantly, GovCo residents seem overwhelmingly happy with the culture that they’ve been able to create.

“The people here are amazing,” Chang said. “Everyone has very individual personalities, but they’re also all very nice. It’s a really accepting part of campus.”

Singh views all of the talk surrounding GovCo this year as evidence of change within Stanford’s evolving student culture post-quarantine.

“The reality has changed,” Singh said. “The reputation has changed. People are realizing that GovCo is the place to be.”

Brandon Kim '25 is a Desk Editor for Campus Life and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Chair. He was previously a Managing Editor for The Grind from Vol. 262-263. Now studying philosophy, he has probably tried out every major here. Ask him about baseball, hiking very tall mountains and old-school Korean pop.

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