Pseudonyms have been given to several interviewees who requested anonymity due to fear of retribution for underage drinking and concerns of legal consequences.
Rachel had her fair share of doubts about whether she should attend the ‘BeRealxStanford’ party in late April. First, it was the Fizz posts about the bouncers at the venue, Temple Nightclub San Francisco, being racist and sexist. Then, it was the sudden cancellation of the free transportation to the venue and back. But she was going to be in San Francisco for another event on Saturday anyway, so she decided to attend despite her reservations.
What followed that night was a sparse event filled with hostile confrontations and marked by an abrupt ending.
The BeRealxStanford party, which took place on April 30, started as a collaboration between the social media app BeReal and Stanford Greek organizations. The party’s organizers, which consisted of members of the BeReal college ambassadors program and other members of the app’s team, gave each Greek organization a quota of students who needed to register for the app in order for the party to happen. To attend the party, students had to join the BeReal app, invite two friends and then pick up wristbands from Stanford’s BeReal ambassadors. Transportation to the event would be free and there would be no entry fee. Hundreds of students, in and outside of Greek life, signed up to attend the event.
The event, which took place over Admit Weekend, was seen by many as an enticing alternative for students seeking weekend nightlife, given the restrictions on on-campus alcohol consumption during that weekend.
Nearly two years into the pandemic, Stanford students have noted a decline in social life on campus. Administrators, disheartened by how the pandemic has limited social life, are taking action to improve the quality of life for Stanford students outside of academics, most notably with the creation of a Social Life Accelerator Task Force — an Office of Student Engagement (OSE) initiative to revitalize social life on campus.
As Rachel arrived at Temple Nightclub that evening, “immediately the vibes were really off,” she said.
Her friends, who were planning on coming, had decided against attending the party following the transportation hiccup. Rachel felt apprehensive about being there alone, but the bulk of her concern was about entering the venue. Rachel owned a fake ID and brought it to stay past the 10 p.m. cutoff for attendees below 21. The bouncer almost immediately confiscated her ID, but what surprised her was that he still proceeded to let her in without asking whether she was 18 years old.
Alarm bells went off in Rachel’s head; it seemed as though he did not really care about her age, but might have been indiscriminately taking IDs. She expressed frustration with the organizers’ decision to book the event at the venue, which Rachel said has received online criticism for indiscriminately taking IDs, discriminating against club-goers on the basis of race and harassing women.
“It seems like they booked the club and then had no accountability for anything that was going on,” Rachel said.
Elaine, a student who works for BeReal and helped book the venue for the event, said the team had no prior knowledge about the club’s negative reviews online. They picked the venue primarily based on availability and Temple’s willingness to host an 18+ party, she said.
Melissa, a BeReal student ambassador who helped organize the party, said that the club is well-known amongst Stanford students, adding that several Greek organizations have previously held formals there.
As organizers of the event, Elaine and Melissa spent most of the night inside the club, oblivious to reported hostile interactions and ID troubles with the bouncers. Elaine said that the confiscation of IDs was not BeReal’s fault or responsibility. “That’s just the club policy,” she said. She explained that the bouncers were presumably fed up with the sheer number of college students trying to enter the club with fake IDs.
As for the party’s abrupt ending, Melissa emphasized that the ending time of the party was transparently communicated. “We made it very clear before that the cutoff was 10 p.m. for 18+, and they would have to escort anyone who was 18+ at that time,” she said.
The transportation cancellation was a result of both a last-minute double-booking issue and the fact that not enough students had signed up for the BeReal app. The party would have been entirely canceled if the quota of students who had to join BeReal was not reached.
Rachel said she felt that the party’s model led to many of the issues that followed: “No one was paying so there wasn’t an accountability mechanism in terms of finances,” she said. “People just signed up for the app and then once everyone signed up, the organizers didn’t feel like they had any accountability towards us, towards our safety, towards us getting to this party.”
Melissa emphasized that BeReal was sincere in planning the party and apologized on behalf of their team for “any unexpected issues facing the event.”
Concerns About Campus Social Life
To multiple students, the most pressing problem is not the specific party mishaps. Rather, they said that the increased frequency of off-campus parties with less accountability is a symptom of the University’s recently-imposed restrictions on social gatherings, which they said have pushed people to look for social life outside of Stanford.
“I’ve heard from multiple younger girls that they’re now using fake IDs in Palo Alto, or even in San Francisco, trying to get into clubs,” said Julia Wortman ’23. “They’re getting drunk on the Caltrain and having to find ways home.”
Students have specifically pointed to the University’s new alcohol policy, which has been criticized for removing the previous open-door rule, an unspoken policy that allowed underage students to consume alcohol in their dorms as long as their doors were open to Resident Assistants.
“All these 18, 19, 20-year-olds are figuring out for the first time how to drink and how their bodies react to alcohol, without support,” Wortman said, adding that mandatory reporting policies endanger underage students.
Some have also criticized restrictions on Greek organizations, many of which are currently on social probation — while on probation, these organizations cannot host on-campus parties. According to Wortman, the University’s COVID-19 tracing policies have led to wristband requirements for entrance to the few parties that have been authorized to take place on campus.
“There used to be one or two all-campuses without fail every Friday and Saturday night, and now there are none,” she said.
University spokesperson Pat Harris wrote in a statement to The Daily that wristbands have been “a common practice for many years at Stanford,” and that due to “a temporary gathering policy enacted in response to the pandemic, some events did require lists of participants to be collected for contact tracing purposes.”
As more and more people reportedly leave campus to find a fulfilling social life, students have raised concerns about the safety of larger cities in comparison to gatherings hosted at Stanford.
“Parties on campus provide a pretty safe space for people that want to be in social settings, but maybe aren’t ready to be in San Francisco, for example,” said Emily, another student who attended the BeReal party. “You’re going to be around so many people that you have no idea, you know, who they are, where they’re from, what their intentions are.”
The University did not comment on the students’ criticisms.