Stanford’s War on Social Life

Ginevra Davis:

It is hard to imagine someone at Stanford building an island anymore. In fact, it is hard to imagine them building anything. The campus culture has changed.

Today, most of the organizations JP remembers from Stanford are gone. The Kappa Alpha boys have been kicked out of their old house. Lake Lagunita was closed to student activities in 2001, ostensibly to protect an endangered salamander that had taken up residence in the artificial waters. Eventually, Stanford let the lake go dry. JP claims you can still see his island though, now a patch of elevated ground in a dry, dusty basin.

Stanford’s new social order offers a peek into the bureaucrat’s vision for America. It is a world without risk, genuine difference, or the kind of group connection that makes teenage boys want to rent bulldozers and build islands. It is a world largely without unencumbered joy; without the kind of cultural specificity that makes college, or the rest of life, particularly interesting.

Since 2013, Stanford’s administration has executed a top-to-bottom destruction of student social life. Driven by a fear of uncontrollable student spontaneity and a desire to enforce equity on campus, a growing administrative bureaucracy has destroyed almost all of Stanford’s distinctive student culture.

What happened at Stanford is a cultural revolution on the scale of a two-mile college campus. In less than a decade, Stanford’s administration eviscerated a hundred years of undergraduate culture and social groups. They ended decades-old traditions. They drove student groups out of their houses. They scraped names off buildings. They went after long-established hubs of student life, like fraternities and cultural theme houses. In place of it all, Stanford erected a homogenous housing system that sorts new students into perfectly equitable groups named with letters and numbers. All social distinction is gone.

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