Expanding campus social life

Stanford plans to redesign the White Plaza area as part of a larger initiative t

Stanford plans to redesign the White Plaza area as part of a larger initiative to promote community engagement on campus. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

Students and administrators are working together to find ways to expand social life on campus. Student Affairs plans to pilot proposals next quarter.

Over the past few weeks, about two dozen students, including ASSU leadership, have joined forces with Student Affairs to begin discussing immediate and long-term ideas to broaden the options for socializing on campus. Among them is a proposal to create a student-run space designated for social gatherings and events, such as trivia nights. Student Affairs says it plans to pilot some of the ideas spring quarter.

In recent months, students have expressed a desire to bring more and different social options to campus. In a message sent to students on Jan. 7, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole acknowledged students’ strong case for alternative social offerings and encouraged them to get involved in brainstorming new ones. Since then, many students have come forward, eager to work with Student Affairs to begin reimagining student gathering spaces on campus.

The ideas put forth by students include working with Cardinal Nights staff to expand the program to include a broader range of offerings, refining dorm life by creating a more equitable distribution of recreation equipment such as pool tables, and working with campus leadership on the LRP project to create a Town Center on campus that provides more opportunities for social connections.

Students have also suggested bringing new social options to the Row, including occasionally shutting down Mayfield Avenue at night for students to hold block parties or to host food trucks. Another popular idea is to create a new space, or repurpose an existing one, for students to gather and host events, such as movies and performances by student bands.

Student Affairs is actively working with students to coordinate and finance each of these five ideas.

"We’re really pleased to see that so many people have come forward to share their ideas for building more on-campus community among students," said Jenn Calvert, assistant vice provost for strategy and assessment in the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs. "We’re taking these ideas seriously and plan to pilot one or two next quarter."

The initiative is a response to students’ concerns about limited social life on campus. Some have expressed frustration that large social gatherings are becoming less frequent, and that spaces on campus designated for students, such as Tresidder Memorial Union, are often used to study or work rather than to socialize. Others have said that Palo Alto and the surrounding communities lack adequate and affordable social spaces for many Stanford students. Additionally, popular cultural offerings and gathering spaces in places like San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose are far from campus.

Students and Student Affairs staff will continue to discuss ways to improve social life on campus. Anyone interested in submitting their ideas or getting involved in the brainstorming process can contact Jenn Calvert in Student Affairs at jcalvert [at] stanford (p) edu.