What makes Stanford more than a mere mimetic imitation of other “elite institutions” is its irreverent and “quirky” student body. We break free from the prudish strictures of the East Coast schools. We are wild, free, and do things like invent the internet. Supposedly.
That is the version of the story that is presented to every tour group which listens, mouth agape, to the unbelievable fact that students actually do swim in the fountains and get to wear whatever they want to at graduation. How revolutionary.
However, what becomes apparent once arriving is that Stanford Hates Fun™, a slogan that every freshman repeats ad nauseam when they realize that "Animal House" was just a movie and that studying CS didn’t magically make them Steve Jobs.
But the truth goes a little deeper than that. It’s not merely the Stanford administration bearing down on those young men in fraternities, preventing them from throwing the same five parties every year (although that is happening). The truth is much more frightening.
Stanford’s administration may hate fun, but deep down, Stanford students do not know how to have fun. Ever since they discovered they were “gifted” (read: slightly above average), Stanford students have lived test to test, final to final, and extracurricular to extracurricular. The crammed schedule necessary for college admissions gently strangled any impulse toward spontaneity. Worries of college applications smothered their joy. Creativity ossified into resume-padding. While some students changed the world before they reached eighteen, many young nonprofit founders only succeeded in erasing their childhoods. By the time these students arrive on move-in day, spontaneous fun hardly stands a chance.
Consider Exhibit A: FMOTQ. For those fortunate enough not to know of Full Moon on the Quad, imagine all of the people to whom romance is a foreign concept gathered in one place, hoping that the deodorant they hastily applied and the four breath mints they scarfed down on the way were enough to let them in on "a night of no-strings-attached kissing."
What should be a mildly gross but generally harmless display of adolescent nonsense now resembles a middle school social dance in its awkwardness, thinly-veiled and over-exuberant desire, and distinct lack of any actual kissing—that is, if anyone shows up at all to stand around in the first place. A post on the anonymous Stanford social media platform Fizz, which received nearly 500 upvotes on the day of FMOTQ, shows a picture of a distinctively empty Main Quad, with the caption reading, “wtf last year literally HUNDREDS of ppl came out unofficially.”
More telling, perhaps, is that many more people complained that no one was showing up than actually made an appearance. The comment, "Excited for Full Moon in my Room where I hang out in my room alone and scroll through instagram shorts,” received 1,300 upvotes. This not only indicates that Stanford's romantic scene needs improvement, but it betrays the student body’s incapacity for all connection and fun.
Stanford has spent years cultivating and linebreeding a race of thoroughbred academic workhorses. Our campus is excellent at following directions to perfection, but we take little initiative outside of that narrow scope of step-by-step, algorithmic thinking. There was a time within living memory—indeed, within the decade—when youthful spontaneity existed on Stanford’s campus. We did not need a committee meeting to plan the bureaucratized FMOTQ of these last few years.
And we certainly did not need the powers that be to plan our game nights (held at the Earth Sciences library—how enthralling), soulless neighborhood events (with six-digit budgets), and "Winter Wellness" sessions (featuring tea leaf and tarot card reading). Students have abdicated their responsibility to create fun to the alphabet soup committees: ASSU, R&DE, OSE, and the Undergraduate Social Life Accelerator Task Force, to name just a few.
Fortunately, this early-onset decline of the playful spirit is a problem which students, not a bloated administration, can and must solve. This fall, for instance, a few students began the On Call Cafe, a late night venue for unstructured socializing. Though the pop-up lasted only a few nights, hundreds of people showed up. Stanford students still have a desire for fun and connection, of course, and only lack the vitality to break their productivity addictions.
So we challenge you, fellow students: Every day, do something fun, exciting, or even romantic. Proper nouns—clubs and startups and classes—do not count, though by all means, make those fun as well. But before running off to your to-do list, lay in the sunshine. When you have a chance, climb on a roof. Go on a hike, especially when you do not have the time. Choose freedom, choose spontaneity, choose joy.