In September 2021, Stanford’s campus re-emerged as though born anew. Of 7,700-odd undergraduate students, only a fourth had ever experienced a full “normal” year of student life. Suddenly, they were club presidents, team captains, dorm residential assistants (RAs), each more than the last carrying all the weight of hundreds of organizations’ institutional knowledge. And so began what many students have felt to be a cultural crisis, in which the branches one could chart through campus all felt abruptly pruned. Every corner of Stanford began to see, feel, and formulate plans to address the circumstances. So a question is asked: in the midst of drastic change, how can we continue to facilitate joy and community? What inclusive, accessible opportunities for “fun” have truly been lost over the pandemic that we once had? How can we bring them back?
We joined the Hillel Design Lab last quarter to explore these questions. In a small conference room, a group of us met weekly and wondered how to address “fun” from a true student perspective. We, a small group of upperclassmen, conducted peer interviews, covered whiteboards in post-its and considered the low-hanging fruit we can start doing today to restore student confidence in Stanford’s fun (film screenings in Memorial Auditorium? Coupon books for local restaurants?). In the discovery process, a repeated theme emerged: the feeling — and potential — in absent tradition.
The concept of “tradition” is almost as complicated to sift through as differing notions of fun. Stanford traditions have long histories; many have undergone critical changes to reflect our developing values. Institutions, groups, celebrations have come and gone in a long-term journey to develop a campus climate in the best interests of students. But some of the traditions students have always valued have disappeared. Cardinal Nights has changed, its presence on campus nightlife diminished from pre-pandemic years. The Band has, too. Even Lake Lagunita – full, for now — is a visible reminder of what prior generations once had. There are so many more student traditions that have become entirely lost to time. These traditions once did, and still can, invigorate a sense of shared community that can de-fracture social life and redefine “fun” to be something had on students’ own terms. In the past few years the idea of fun has felt like something that can be had in spite of circumstances. Traditions turn chances for fun into a default expectation rather than something that must overcome a static inertia on campus.
One tradition — part experience, part mindset — that emerged in our journey was the feeling of “Camp Stanford.”
Camp Stanford can be best captured in spring Quarter weekends: sun and vibes. With awful weather in the winter quarter, that feeling was especially lost. We have a beautiful Row with big lawns and great spots for enjoying the weather. Within our little Design Lab, we thought: what if we funnel the energy of Camp Stanford into a weekly tradition on the Row? The idea eventually narrowed scope.
And so begins (resumes?) Farm Fridays.
Starting this past Friday (April 21) from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and continuing each week, rotating host houses on the Row will have their lawns open to any students to stop by, hang out, and take part in that week’s theme. Think of the Row as a temporary waterpark or Mario Kart racecourse. See the Sigma Nu (SNU) guys playing Die on the front lawn or Columbae slack-lining? The ambition is to have the whole Row and campus around it unite for an organic, ground-up fun time on the Farm. Each Friday of spring quarter will bring new themes and activities. With kudos to [email protected] for their ongoing support and for providing us with the funding to get started, Farm Fridays is by and for students who want to keep fun going – this spring, and for every future frosh who wants to know they’ll find belonging. If you were one of the 200 students who joined the kickoff event at Mars last week (‘Hats and Tats’), we had a blast and hope you come back each week. We deeply appreciate the support of The Stanford Daily editorial board encouraging this early success. This Friday, we’ll be chilling outside the Well House and Robert Moore South (BOB) for Farm Fridays ‘Pickling Edition: Pickling and Pickleball.’ Look for the golden sky dancer.
Farm Fridays is only one piece of a large, ongoing puzzle for us as students to make our college experience our own. It won’t bring back everything we’ve lost. But it’s a chance to address some of our many valid frustrations with Stanford’s new post-pandemic status quo. It’s a way for each of us to be part of a solution.
It will, hopefully, just be fun. The only thing missing is you. Will you join us? With joy,
Sophia Danielpour ‘24
Ellie Fajer ‘23
Ben Fischer ‘24
Emily Gurwitz ‘24
Kyra Kraft ‘23
Ashlee Kupor ‘24
Claire Rosenfeld ‘23
The authors are upperclassmen brought together to lead the Hillel Design Lab, which conducted a design process to address community and belonging on campus. Farm Fridays will be hosted each week in spring quarter at rotating houses on the Row, always from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., always open to all students. Join the mailing list for updates every week.