3 Do-Overs from Stanford History

July 1, 2016

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Save the bowling alley

Tresidder Memorial Union had 14 lanes as part of a recreation center until the space was converted into a computer facility in the 1980s. But in our mind’s eye, we see the glory of a 2016 version: Nerd Nation bowling shirts and a Stanford-made scoring app.

Things to Undo - Bowling Alley
Photo: Robert Stinnett

Prevent ‘The Play’

In 1982’s Big Game, Cal had time for the five-lateral kickoff return that ended in a miracle touchdown because Stanford ran the clock down to only 8 seconds before its go-ahead field goal. Forget what the thinking was—let’s just fix it. Stanford calls its timeout with 4 seconds left, so the game ends with the winning field goal sailing through the uprights. The Band rushes the field to celebrate, John Elway wins the Heisman, and Cal’s Kevin Moen is remembered merely as a pretty good defensive back who shares a name with a faucet maker.

Things to Undo - The Play
Photo: Greenway Productions

Turn Batman into an alum

The university confirms that William West Anderson from Walla Walla, Wash., was eligible to enroll for graduate study in June 1951. But the 1960s TV Batman, who became famous as Adam West, apparently never made it to the Farm because he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Holy boot camp, Caped Crusader, there should have been a way for you to be a Cardinal before you became the Bat. 

Things to Undo - Batman
Photo: Greenway Productions

3 more do-overs from Stanford history (faculty edition) 

Law professor Hank Greely’s alumnus blood runs thick. He is well-informed about virtually every aspect of Stanford life, from curricular developments to dorm policies to offensive line recruits for the football team. And he’s steeped in university history. We asked Greely, ’74, to proffer a few do-overs of his own.

Redesign those hideous ’60s buildings

When imagining which piece of campus architecture to undo, the possibilities are vast. The early abandonment of Frederick Law Olmsted’s three-quad plan? Stern Hall? (Loved my three dorms, but bomb-shelter chic fades fast.) Littlefield’s invasion of the Oval’s lobes? But let’s go with “1960s design.” That style gave us UGLI, which was more than an acronym for Meyer Undergraduate Library. “Bland” is one word for the old Graduate School of Business and Durand engineering. Building fashions come and go, but that one won’t be back and should never have been.

Meyer Library
Photo: Kenneth Chan

Forget the “500 rule” for women

In 1905, Jane Stanford, worried that her son’s school would become the “Vassar of the West” because of large numbers of women applicants, decreed Stanford could have no more than 500 female students. That needed undoing, not adjusting. In 1933, the idea became keeping the 1905 ratio while admitting more women, so that generated roughly three male undergrads for every female. In recent decades, the ratio has gradually approached, though rarely reached, 50:50.

Choose a different president in 1968

On December 1, 1968, Kenneth Pitzer became Stanford’s sixth president; on June 25, 1970, he resigned under pressure. Perhaps the right person at exactly the wrong time? His belated undoing came by way of raging campus turmoil, mainly fueled by the Vietnam War. I arrived on campus as a bewildered freshman the following September, when Richard Lyman was appointed. I missed his first presidential talk to students because I was . . . a clueless frosh.

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