“Does Stanford hate fun?” reads the first question in a new FAQ published on the Student Affairs website.
“Of course not!” affirms the University.
In the first University-wide communication since The Daily published an investigation into the so-called “War on Fun” and Stanford’s mascot was suspended for protesting the lack of social life, Stanford acknowledged concerns about campus vibrancy and laid out a plan to rebuild social opportunities in a letter and associated FAQ Thursday.
The letter, authored by Associate Vice Provost of Inclusion, Community and Integrative Learning Samuel Santos Jr., acknowledged that the University has heard from “students who feel the social experience on campus isn’t meeting their hopes and expectations.”
Santos told The Daily, “We know some things aren’t working well, and we sincerely want to hear from students so we can make the right changes and improve conditions for everyone.”
The announcement was met with cautious optimism — and plenty of skepticism — from the students who have been at the forefront of calls for Stanford to reform its approach to student social life.
Stanford Hates Fun, a 30-member student group that formed in October, wrote in an unsigned comment to The Daily, “The University’s statement on the War on Fun shows that our movement is making a difference, yet there’s still a long way to go.”
Santos said the University will look into revising the party organizing process, work with Voluntary Student Organizations (VSOs) to better allocate funds and space and implement recommendations from the Student Social Life Accelerator, a University committee.
He also solicited feedback from the community following criticisms over lack of communication, sharing a Google form where students can provide ideas for social opportunities they want to see on campus and encouraging students to reach out to him directly to share their experiences and suggestions.
Notably, the letter also alluded to dangerous drinking practices. Writing to The Daily, Santos confirmed that the University would be “reviewing practices and cultural norms around alcohol and drug use to foster greater safety and well-being.”
His comment follows ongoing concern from students about the alcohol policy, which has drawn sharp criticism from various groups. Thursday’s letter marked the first indication that the University might reconsider the policy and follows comments by University employees in an earlier Daily article disparaging the administration’s approach.
Students who have been vocal in attacking what they called the “War on Fun” said they were happy to receive word from the University but added that they were not sure how far the University would go to address their concerns.
A VSO president, who spoke anonymously with The Daily for its investigation into the “War on Fun” because much of their funding came from the administration, said they were “very grateful that the University heard students’ concerns and set up a process to gather feedback from all corners.”
That said, they hoped the University would “not focus myopically on the concerns regarding parties and Greek Life,” and noted that the reduction in social activities had led to a more dichotomous approach to having fun with few alternatives to Greek organizations.
Sigma Nu fraternity president Moritz Stephan, who was vocal in expressing his frustration with the University’s policies and communication, told The Daily he appreciated that there was “awareness of the problem within the admin” and said his work with Santos, who took care in his own communications with The Daily to thank Row House leaders for putting on social events, “has been great so far.”
Arman Sharma ’24, who wrote an op-ed in the Review called “Take Stanford Back: A Call to Revitalize Fun,” agreed, saying, “This is a step in the right direction.”
But, concerns remain. The Stanford Hates Fun group said that Santos’s statement failed to address the “core issues plaguing our campus” and that the University is “patting itself on the back for fixing things that they themselves broke.”
They went on to say traditions and events that have been occurring are small and intensely regulated. “Gaieties with police searching backpacks and a script that has been screened by the administration is a very different tradition from Full Moon On The Quad,” they wrote.
Sharma also feared the University would “over-bureaucratize solutions” and fail to make meaningful progress.
The VSO leader agreed, writing, “It’s incredibly challenging to cut down on years of administrative build-up. [Another] problem is leadership misalignment. Upper-level leadership at the University has a far less accurate perception of the daily student experience than mid-level staff, but those senior leaders make the most consequential decisions regarding student life.”
Santos did not say what chain of command would be employed in enacting future reforms or how the University would avoid red tape, but told The Daily the administration was “committed to working as quickly as we can.”
In its Stanford Report letter, the University pledged to offer a “broad variety of opportunities for entertainment and fun,” including previously existing programs like Cardinal Nights and Explore The Bay, a move students broadly supported.
Ishaan Singh ’24 said he hoped to see the University “publicizing events and making more all-campus opportunities for students to mingle.” These “don’t have to be parties,” he said.
Stanford Hates Fun agreed, writing “There is an incredible diversity in experiences students are looking for here.” They encouraged an increase in all social gatherings and noted that “even 14 parties per weekend (one party for every 600 undergrads) is nowhere near enough, exactly because it creates this ‘average’ Stanford experience so many people don’t vibe with.”