portrait of Samuel Santos Jr under arcades in Main Quad

Samuel Santos Jr., Associate Vice Provost for Inclusion, Community and Integrative Learning, Division of Student Affairs (Image credit: Andrew Brodhead)

Dear Stanford students,

I’m Samuel Santos, and if we haven’t crossed paths yet, I joined Stanford in August as associate vice provost for inclusion, community, and integrative learning in Student Affairs. I’m a Texan by birth, and have become a Californian by choice. In the last few decades, I’ve worked with students at six different universities across the country in cultural and identity-based centers, student activities, advising student government, athletics, and more; but what I really love is working with students like you.

I’m writing to you today about social life on campus. While it’s hard to imagine anything less fun than a letter about fun, I’d like to open a conversation about it.

As I’ve settled in over the last few months, I’ve been so impressed with the spirit, enthusiasm, and inventiveness of Stanford students – which I’d heard about from afar but have now experienced up close. I tried my hand at juggling with the juggling team a few weeks ago, not my finest moment, but it did give me a chance to enjoy the weird, wacky, playful spirit of this place. I’ve seen students having great times together, in a lot of different settings.

But I’ve also heard many concerns from students who feel the social experience on campus isn’t meeting their hopes and expectations. I speak for my many colleagues in Stanford leadership when I say, we take this seriously, and we want to make progress on it.

We want to support connection and belonging and yes, fun! That takes different forms for different people. The pandemic put a lot of in-person connections on hold. We’ve been working with students to rebuild social opportunities – and we want to continue and strengthen those efforts, in collaboration with you.

First of all, we want your input.

For those who prefer to quickly fill out something online to share your thoughts, we’ve created this web form for you to provide ideas on social opportunities you’d like to see at Stanford. I’d also enjoy sitting down with individual students or small groups to hear your experiences and suggestions. Reach out to me here. We also welcome input from student government, leaders of student organizations, RAs and ETAs, and others thinking about this topic. This fall we have also been implementing a dozen short-term ideas from the Social Life Accelerator Task Force, made up of students, staff and alumni, and we’re looking forward to receiving the longer-term recommendations from that group soon.

Second, we’re looking at where we can make rapid improvements to support social life on campus.

We’ve already started looking at the party planning process and how it can be streamlined, to empower students who want to plan events – we’ve heard clearly that this has been a major sticking point. We’re looking at additional funding and space possibilities for social events, building on (for example) the $3,000 that is available to each Row house to plan events. And, we’re evaluating how students find out about the different social events, and how the university can help with the flow of information – another sticking point. These steps are in addition to the actions we’ve been taking to implement the Social Life Accelerator recommendations.

We welcome your thoughts on these and other issues. Graduate and professional students, we know the issues for you are often different than for undergraduates – we want to hear from you, too.

Third, we will continue supporting students with the broad variety of opportunities for entertainment and fun that have been occurring this year.

There is a long list – events at The Arbor at Tresidder; Stanford traditions like Band Run, Mausoleum, and this week’s Gaieties; socials, barbecues, and special dinners based in the residences; Cardinal Nights; intramural sports (as well as cheering on our varsity sports teams); and the new Explore the Bay series, among others.

Parties are part of the mix, too. On Halloween weekend, there were 20 registered parties on campus. The weekend before, there were 13; the weekend after, there were 14. It is our goal to say “YES” to registered parties, and we’ve approved 95 percent of party registrations received this fall (113 total parties registered, 107 approved).

We want to continue to support you in creating social opportunities that are fun, inclusive, and safe in the best traditions of Stanford. It’s important that you have time and space to just enjoy being together. We know different students are seeking different kinds of opportunities, reflecting the diversity of interests and identities in our community. So, please do share your thoughts and ideas in the coming weeks.

We plan to share more in the winter quarter as we go through this process. More information about some of these issues is available in this FAQ on our website. Thanks, and I look forward to seeing you around campus soon!


Samuel Santos Jr.
Associate Vice Provost
Inclusion, Community, and Integrative Learning