Stanford University News Service



CONTACT: Stanford University News Service (650) 723-2558


STANFORD -- Tim Choy wasn't even born when the civil rights movement was in full swing. He was a toddler when the Watergate story broke and a preschooler when the Vietnam War ended.

So when the 21-year-old Stanford University senior heard about a new campus "focus house" that would offer programs on American society from the 1960s to the '90s, the idea intrigued him.

"I think to understand the issues today, we need to appreciate the struggles that took place back then," Choy explained. "People of my age look back on the 1960s as a time when youth had a voice."

Choy's residence, Potter House, is one of five "focus houses" that have started up at Stanford's Governor's Corner housing complex in the past two years. Others spotlight modern culture and thought, gender issues, human biology, and arts and performing arts.

Focus houses occupy a middle ground between Stanford's traditional dormitories and more intense academic theme houses, where students are required to take seminars and complete house projects.

"Focus houses do not place similar expectations on students," said Associate Dean of Residential Education Alice Supton. "The idea is to have the same range of activities that characterize regular housing, but with a subset of activities clustered on the focus."

In addition to energizing upperclass residences, she said, "focus houses offer a wonderful chance for resident fellows to share their expertise and interests more fully with students."

Potter House's '60s to '90s focus was proposed by resident fellow Clay Carson, professor of history and an authority on the civil rights movement.

Programming ranges from the fun - a "Name that Tune" contest with hits from the '60s to the '90s - to discussions about presidential politics, civil rights, the origins of the ecology movement, the women's movement, and gay and lesbian activism.

Despite the students' limited memories of the era, "there's a lot of interest," Carson observed. "They know it affected their parents, and they've heard a lot of myths about the '60s, of course.

"One of the things we try to do is provide some more accurate information about what really did happen during the period when their parents came of age, and do it in a light and entertaining way."

Across from Potter House, the 60 students of Murray House have weekly coffee nights focusing on intellectual trends of the 19th and 20th centuries. Guest speakers include prominent Stanford historians, philosophers and literary scholars.

"I've spoken to many undergraduates who enjoyed life in their freshmen dorms, but felt there was a bit of an animus against heavier philosophical discussions," explained resident fellow Robert Weisberg, professor of law. "I wanted to set up a structure by which this could happen as part of the normal course of things."

In Robinson House, male and female "focus assistants" coordinate panel discussions and film nights on gender-related issues, while human biology students in Adams House attend faculty-led programs on topics ranging from drugs to AIDS. Arts activities at Schiff House include field trips to San Francisco galleries, concerts and theatrical performances.

If the current focus houses prove successful, new ones could open on campus next year, Supton said. Among those discussed: an environmental focus house, a Jewish studies house and a creative writers' house.

"I can imagine lots of other themes," she added. "We encourage anyone qualified to be a resident fellow to give us a call."

Resident Fellows sought

The office of Residential Education is seeking candidates to fill vacancies in the Resident Fellow program for the 1993-94 academic year.

RFs are university faculty or, occasionally, senior staff members who live with students in the undergraduate residences. Those with ideas for new focus houses and dorm activities are especially encouraged.

Interested faculty and staff should call Kim Ross at Residential Education (725-2800) for more information and to arrange a meeting with Alice Supton, director of residential education.

Applications for RF positions are due Monday, Feb. 1, and

interviews will be conducted on a rolling basis. Appointments will be made in March.



This is an archived release.

This release is not available in any other form. Images mentioned in this release are not available online.
Stanford News Service has an extensive library of images, some of which may be available to you online. Direct your request by EMail to

© Stanford University. All Rights Reserved. Stanford, CA 94305. (650) 723-2300.