Spring quarter will feature a full calendar of social events for students – including a robust schedule of substance-free Cardinal Nights.

These events will also serve as the foundation for a broader reimagining of social life at Stanford. The goal is to provide enough events for students to have many choices on any given evening.

“We’ve heard from students about how the pandemic disrupted social life. Our focus moving forward is to bring joy and fun here for everyone,” said Snehal Naik, senior director of the Office of Student Engagement (OSE).

Cardinal Nights, which for a decade offered substance-free events, is a key part of this vision.

“Every quarter, I hear from students that they want to socialize with people from around campus without the presence of alcohol,” said Susie Brubaker-Cole, vice provost for student affairs. “Cardinal Nights meets this important need. In addition, it also ensures that there are options and variety in campus social life – events where all students are welcome.”

Movies, museums, trivia nights

Cardinal Nights, previously organized by the Office of Substance Use Programs Education & Resources, now rests with OSE’s Campus Life Programming team. The team works to create vibrant campus life for students, in collaboration with multiple stakeholders. 

OSE surveyed students, including those on the Cardinal Nights listserv, in December to see what kind of social activities were wanted. The top two choices? Going off campus and seeing movies.

So one favorite Cardinal Nights event that is set for a revival is Pick Your Own Movie Night, when students are shuttled to a theater in Redwood City and given a gift card to spend on dinner and a movie. Visits to museums such as SFMOMA are also in the works.

Expect outdoor movie screenings, as well as the return of Farm Fest on the Row and other events that take advantage of Stanford’s unique spaces, such as a trivia night at the Anderson Collection, scheduled for April 22. 

Neighborhood events, senior nights, festivals

Student crowd facing stage, dancing, with stage lights shining on their faces.

Image credit: Office of Student Engagement

“While the neighborhoods and dorms create a kind of ‘home’ life, OSE is working to create social life at the center of campus where students from across neighborhoods and class years can gather,” Brubaker-Cole said. 

To accomplish this, OSE is increasing its collaboration with other groups, such as the class presidents and the neighborhood councils. A recent casino night, for example, was produced in collaboration with class presidents.

Traditional programs like Senior Nights will look to offer outings to places like Top Golf, in which the university pays for the experience, the food and nonalcoholic drinks. Students over 21 can purchase alcohol if they so choose that evening. 

OSE will be helping with events that occur every year, including the junior and senior formals, Stanford Powwow, the Frost Music & Arts Festival, Blackfest and Holi.

“People who want to help plan events relating to social life – we want to help them,” said Trista Shideler, assistant director of OSE. “We have a collection of programs that have been really successful in the past, and we are also looking to do new, exciting things, based on collective student feedback.”

An expansive vision for the future

OSE is also looking at long-term plans for how it can support campus social life by providing a wide variety of student programming for fall 2022 and beyond.

A vibrant campus social scene could include substance-free programming, such as Cardinal Nights, as well as other OSE events with responsible alcohol use. 

This wide variety of events would help students see beyond the duality of heavy drinking vs. being substance-free – and focus on socializing in a healthy environment, Shideler said.

Student participation will be key to planning future events. The neighborhood councils will provide ideas, and OSE is looking at other ways to solicit student input on what types of events they would like to attend. They will look to do more of what students want, and pivot away from things that aren’t well attended.  

“We look forward to seeing how the creativity of our students and staff continue to develop not only Cardinal Nights, but also a broader set of social options for all students on campus,” Brubaker-Cole said.