A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003 :::
Two quickies to add to my comments about my longer thoughts about Stanford, which follows these two.

Red roofs. That's what every Stanford building must have, according to the charter. Why? Mrs. Stanford supposedly wanted it so she could see the place from heaven. Bad, very romantic theology, but very good aesthetics. Like every college and university, Stanford has suffered from the bad taste of its administrators and donors. There are some really ugly buildings there, and the ones built in the recent burst of government largesse are uniformly boring. Worst is the new "alumni center." As a long time employee pointed out, the old alumni office used to attract recent grads who didn't want to leave and liked to thow parties. They showed up in jeans. Now, that office is staffed with professional money raisers, and they have a good sized office building in what was formerly a run-down part of the sports area. The people who work there, and the building, could easily be plunked down on K St in Washington, and no one would notice. It is the only building that manages to make you forget you are out in the country (which you are, even if smelly, traffic-choked El Camino is within earshot.) But even that one has a red roof, and the outside basically matches the sandstone of the old Quad. So if it weren't for Mrs. Stanford's idiosyncratic requirement, the ugly buildings would not only compete with the beautiful ones, but they would clash.

We are vouchsafed precious little information about what people do in heaven, but at least when you fly in to SFO from the right direction, you can indeed easily pick out the red-tiled roofs of the university Gov. and Mrs. Stanford built in honor of their son.

The cure is worse than the disease. There is no question that Stanford has waged a slow war of attrition against the fraternities. And they are close to winning. From 13 in 1979, (I think), they are now down to 6, although my own old frat, the Dekes, have been rebuilding and may well force the administration into an embarrassing decision. There was a certain sense to it, in that most of the ones that are gone were major troublemakers. But those kind of boys are always going to be there, and it might be better to have them out of sight. I walked past the lounge in my last dorm one Sunday morning, and did a double take. Stanford dorms used to be strictly alcohol free. This lounge--in a freshman dorm, mind you--was littered with plastic beer cups, beer cans, and an empty bottle of liquor, one of those huge ones they only sell in California and a few other states. A recent grad commented, "at least in frats they have to clean it up themselves," which we did. Was it really so wise to get rid of the frats?

Another anti-PC thing: even though Stanford led the way in calling freshmen "first years," they seem to still call themselves "freshmen."

Back to my own classes...

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 10:58 AM



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