We don’t need to tell you do we? Because you feel it — every time you walk around without your close friends or without your AirPods in. Do you feel welcome everywhere on campus? Do you feel like Stanford has a strong sense of community?
Universities have personalities by which we know and love them or by which we are disillusioned. The personality of a university is far more than the aggregation of the professors, buildings, books, and laboratories found on the campus. The Spirit of Stanford is as real as the buildings and books and is far more important. We are asking, “What is the state of the Spirit of Stanford? The hard truth is that we are at a school with a $37 billion endowment where we have to campaign for “Fun to Strike Back.”
The administration has as its goal the total re-creation of campus social life, a rather muted conception of the Spirit of Stanford, from the top-down. They will throw money at the problem, establish more offices and more advisory boards. They will change the fine print of the rules and regulations for throwing parties, and they will bombard you with facts that demonstrably prove all is swell. But we believe that a thriving campus social life emerges naturally when everyone feels like they belong to one family; it cannot be bought. It is our responsibility to bring about the change we want to see, from the bottom-up, one interaction at a time:
Saying hello is the heart of community.
“The “Hello Spirit” is the backbone of the Farm, welding unbreakable bonds of friendship. It is the “Hello Spirit” that gives you a glow of pride when you see a Stanford sticker in Nome, Buenos Aires, Cape Town or Bombay. It makes you seek out the owner of the sticker and have dinner with him, even though he may be in the class of ‘98 while you completed your 180 units 25 years later. After dinner you’ll almost certainly drink a toast to the Farm and to the “Hello Spirit” you learned there.”
Does this sound like a fantasy? Well, we didn’t write this. This was taken from an article in the 1937 Stanford Daily. The class of ‘98 alumnus mentioned is from the class of 1898. Let that sink in.
Stanford students, you are not passive to the whims of the Orwellian neighborhood system. You affect those around you through every interaction. You have influence over those who will take your place. And so you have great responsibility. In years to come, there will be frosh whose conduct and character will be shaped for the better (or the worse) by the college spirit you help to create.
It is unfortunate that in the wake of the pandemic, Stanford has lost many of its cherished traditions. Bay-to-Breakers demonstrates how much student solidarity tradition can foster. But we also realize that many of Stanford’s so-called traditions are highly problematic. Full Moon on the Quad does not appeal to us anymore, nor, it seems, to anyone. The fortunate loss of Full Moon on the Quad and more unfortunate decline of countless other micro-traditions — saying ‘Happy Birthday’ to tour guides, running Stanford-to-the-Sea, eating FroYo at the CoPo — is no reason in itself to abandon the worth of tradition altogether, nor a reason to write off the wealth of heritage and wisdom about how to foster community that the history of Stanford offers. We hope that some of you reading this will take pride in Stanford’s “Hello Spirit” and bring it once more into being. Read this:
“November 19, 1928
Since the University started in 1891, the most cherished custom has been embodied in the “Hello” spirit. Of late, however, we have been wondering whether this is not another vestige of the good old days which will go the way of other Stanford traditions.
It is not pleasant to walk about the campus and have a cheery “hello” met with a half-hearted grunt or no attempt at reply. Excuses that one is not sure of the person’s acquaintance are offered, but the “hello” custom applies to non-acquaintances as well as acquaintances.”
Our greatest challenge now is to revive the oldest tradition of the Farm. If you read this whole article, go say a hearty hello to someone, anyone. It’s on us to make this our family.
In practice, what does it mean to belong to the Farm Family? It’s holding the sincere belief that you can make a lifelong friend while toasting a bagel in the common room. So, if you want to do something about Stanford’s social life, do this: Say hello! Say hello in the hallway of your dorm. Say hello before class to your classmates. Say hello while biking through the quad. Just say hello.
Leopold van den Daele ’24 and Matteo Perper ’23