After facing a series of difficulties from a combination of COVID-19, mixed student interest and financial challenges, Stanford’s main program for hosting all-campus social events — Cardinal Nights — returned in full force last autumn.
This fall, the program within the Office of Student Engagement (OSE) has held events including ice skating, a Lego building event and a movie screening of “Friday the 13th.” In its second consecutive year of full operation, Cardinal Nights is a major way the University looks to expand the offering of substance-free events catered to all students on campus.
In the past year, the on-campus social scene became a hot topic of discussion among students, highlighted by the student-led “War on Fun” campaign last year, which called for greater availability and quality of social events. The campaign led to the election of Sophia Danielpour ’24 and Kyle Haslett ’25 as ASSU Executives, who ran on a platform of “Fun Strikes Back.”
“The Office of Student Engagement envisions Cardinal Nights as a series of premiere substance-free events,” said University spokesperson Pat Lopes Harris. She encouraged students to share opinions and suggestions regarding the program through the Cardinal Nights Instagram and invited them to connect with staff member Rebecca Scarrà.
“I like that [Cardinal Nights] gives students another option if you want to get out, but it doesn’t require dressing up too much,” said Mia Clark ’27, who attended the Oct. 13 screening of “Friday the 13th.”
”It didn’t require having to drink or do … anything that takes a lot of energy,” Clark said.
Clark said that during the movie, students would shout and laugh in unison when scary scenes played.
“It was really cool just to see spirit on a larger scale where people would just come out and just enjoy something fun with other people,” she said.
Cardinal Nights began over a decade ago, after a 2011 survey indicated demand for more alcohol-free campus events. Last year, popular events held by Cardinal Nights included a stuffed animal workshop, an arcade night and a movie screening of “Nope.”
The program also leads the “Explore the Bay” series, which takes students on trips to nearby Bay Area cities. On Nov. 4, Cardinal Nights held the first such event of the year with a San José Sharks hockey game.
For some students, though, Cardinal Nights’s offerings have not been enticing enough to gain their attendance. Brian Xu ’25 said that he had not yet attended any events this academic year.
“This year’s Cardinal Nights seem a bit less interesting than previous years’ so far, primarily consisting of movie screenings or small events that didn’t stand out as something I couldn’t do on my own very easily,” Xu said.
Xu said he preferred the “Casino Night” inside Wilbur Dining last February, and the “lively” animal stuffing event.
David Maemoto ’26 said that he thought “increased publicity of the events could increase participation.”
For the Cardinal Nights events he had attended in the past, including Casino Night, he had “stumbled upon” them while walking by the event rather than planning to attend in advance.
He said Casino Night was his first experience playing casino-type games with professional dealers without any financial risk, highlighting the social aspect of de-stressing with friends in an alcohol-free setting.
Xu is among some students looking for more Cardinal Nights to come. He said he “would definitely enjoy a higher frequency of Cardinal Nights,” especially ones that students cannot do on their own.
Besides, Xu said, Cardinal Nights events could bring “together people who might not know who to invite on their own.”
With the end of the fall quarter and finals week approaching, Cardinal Nights’s next event is “Stress Less,” a social event on Dec. 8 featuring resources including massage chairs, board games and hot drinks and snacks.