News

Six months later: Students react to the neighborhood system

April 12, 2022, 10:44 p.m.

It’s been two quarters since undergraduates came to a campus divided into residential neighborhoods by the ResX system. The system, which was originally announced in 2019, sought to revolutionize residential life at Stanford through the division of existing dorms, co-ops, row houses and self-ops into eight neighborhoods.

“The neighborhoods seek to build stable communities that foster a sense of belonging and increase students’ abilities to form profound and long-lasting friendships,” senior director of communications for student affairs Pat Lopes Harris wrote in an email to The Daily. 

By implementing the neighborhood system, the University hopes that the new living environment will foster continuity in the residential experience. Over the next quarter-century, ResX is aiming for the neighborhoods to become hubs of community, complete with a community commons (a space for meetings and social events as well as the home of a café or student-run grill), a central dining area and a place to pick up package deliveries. 

So how has the neighborhood experience compared to students’ initial expectations?

Over the summer, students expressed both hopes and worries about the new system. Frosh, whose first housing experience would be marked by the change, shared careful optimism amongst concerns of feeling stuck.

Assignments on West Campus were seen by some as less than desirable. Wyatt Denious ‘25, a resident of Governor’s Corner (GovCo), and Shubhra Mishra ‘25, a resident of Lagunita Court in West Lag, worried that their respective neighborhoods (D and R) on West Campus would be less social than other neighborhoods. 

East Campus assignments, on the other hand, were coveted by many frosh. Zadie Schaffer ’25, a resident of Neighborhood A, said that she was “really excited to come into the neighborhood because it looked like a fantastic location.”

Most of the incoming sophomore class was also new to Stanford housing after having experienced their first year online. But unlike the frosh, through the Neighborhood Assignment process, they had some say in their neighborhood assignment.

Angelica Garcia ’24, a Neighborhood O resident, expected to “have the closest to the ‘FROSH’ experience” she had missed out on. But Nora Brew ’24, a Neighborhood F resident, was less optimistic: “I feel like how [the neighborhood system] was going to work wasn’t really explained very well,” she said.

On the other hand, juniors and seniors, who experienced the Stanford housing system pre-COVID, expressed a mixture of concern and excitement.

Many student staff members, unlike much of the Stanford community, didn’t experience the effects of the neighborhood assignment process. Liam Fay ’23, a Resident Assistant in Neighborhood R, was placed in Florence Moore Hall his freshman year, which he said he “did not enjoy.” But he had pretty neutral expectations coming into Neighborhood R. 

“I didn’t really care about the neighborhoods,” he said. “Since I would just go wherever I was staffing.”

After speaking to a ResX representative last spring about plans for Roble’s “sustainability” theme and the At Home Abroad house at Yost, Dominic Joseph DeMarco ‘22 was pessimistic. He felt “there was a lack of a full cohesive vision for the neighborhoods,” he wrote to The Daily. 

Now, students have lived with the ResX experience for more than six months and have even begun applying for neighborhood changes and new housing under the system. But the mixed feelings persist. 

According to students, West Campus’s anti-social reputation did not hold true. 

“A majority of my dorm experience has been overwhelmingly positive,” Denious wrote. He chalked his enjoyment up to the company, who he calls “genuinely the most amazing people I’ve ever met,” and shouted out the “many people from other neighborhoods who make the dreadful trek to GovCo just to hang out with us.”

Mishra echoed similar positivity. “I love how social West Lag is,” she said, “Location-wise, I love Neighborhood R. We have a beautiful courtyard, Farillaga and Lakeside at walking distance.”

Fay’s experiences have also exceeded his expectations, though like Mishra and Denious, he also attributes this to the people around him. “I really enjoy Neighborhood R,” he said, “I don’t think that’s because of the neighborhood system. I just like the dorms that make up Neighborhood R.” 

Garcia attributes her love of Neighborhood O to the location. “I love Flomo’s easy access to all the dorms from within as well as how conveniently situated it is on campus. The downhill slope saves you time when you are literally running late to lecture,” Garcia said.

DeMarco, however, has had a “wholly neutral experience” living in Neighborhood F. “If I didn’t have a green shirt with the F highlighted, I wouldn’t even know that I’m in Neighborhood F. Events, on-calls, gatherings and dinners are exclusively put on by the dorm,” he wrote. 

Schaffer said her experiences has been “up and down” thus far in Neighborhood A. In addition to dealing with homesickness and making friends, she’s also noticed “a lot of drama” in her specific dorm, which she said was “interesting to navigate.”

Concerns about feeling stuck in their respective neighborhoods have also proven true for some students. Brew, for instance, doesn’t feel like her neighborhood has made the limits of the system worth it. “Besides a couple events at the beginning of the year, the neighborhoods have been completely pointless,” she wrote. “[The system] has made choosing where I want to live very very difficult. Most of my close friends are not in my neighborhood so I don’t have the possibility to live with them.”

Schaffer agrees. “[The system] seems to penalize you for being friends with people outside your dorm,” she said.

DeMarco knew he wanted to live in a traditional dorm this year, making his only option Kimball. “That’s not a bad option by any means — but it is a bit stressful knowing that if they don’t have room for you in your one upper-class dorm, then you get placed in a completely different living environment,” he wrote.  

But — in addition to constructive criticism — there are also some students who outright think the neighborhood system should be abolished.

Erick Torres ’25, the creator of an ASSU petition that urges Stanford to abolish the neighborhood system, believes that it’s “completely unfair to mandate students to live in the same regional housing while keeping room and board the same for all types of residences.” The petition had over 150 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.

The University did not directly address the petition in their comment to The Daily. 

Despite Mishra’s positive experience with her own neighborhood, she says she signed the petition because she “hates” the neighborhood system. “It annoys me that [the ResX task force] mainly looked at schools that had a neighborhood-style system going already,” she said, referring to the system’s creation. “If they really wanted to innovate, they would’ve visited all types of schools.” 

But there are also students who envision a future where the neighborhood system, perhaps with some improvements, could be beneficial to residential living. Denious is cautiously optimistic about the neighborhood system overall: “The neighborhood system has potential,” he wrote. “Because it’s such a new system, I think it needs refining.” 

Garcia thinks “the concept of community emphasized by the neighborhood system is ideal.” But she’s not sure how this system is “any more effective at establishing that than before.”

Some are also hopeful that the system will streamline the housing process. Although housing options for student staff like Fay are not confined by the neighborhood system, he said he does “hope it makes the process of applying for housing simpler” for normal residents as well.  

Reflecting on housing applications before the implementation of the neighborhood system, DeMarco wrote that “the draw was simultaneously overwhelming and empowering. It was overwhelming because of the abundance of choice, but at the same time being able to rank and fully set your preferences gave a sense of agency in a system that necessarily comes down to draw number.”

Harris wrote that the University was aware of the “importance of being able to easily assign with friends” and pointed students to “a new process that offers a streamlined and more transparent way of doing this.”

This new procedure allows students to fill out a “much shorter application” with a group of friends in their assigned neighborhood, which they must do by April 18. Each housing group will then receive an “assigned gate time ([between] May 23-27) during which they will go into the housing system and select their house and room all in one step,” which the University believes will increase transparency in the assignment process, according to Harris.

Overall, however, DeMarco wrote that the neighborhood system felt like an “invisible change.” Whether or not the change felt invisible, it’s clear that the Stanford student body has yet to reach any general consensus on the new residential experience. 

This article has been updated to reflect that the ResX task force conducted the research that informed the creation of the neighborhood system. The Daily regrets this error.

Contact Oriana at news ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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