Stanford’s undergraduate housing system has long exalted the virtue of choice. During a four-year journey, students have 80 different living options across the vast campus.
Even as they establish lifelong friendships with fellow Larkinites or have academic epiphanies with their Structured Liberal Education hallmates, frosh also confront the anxiety of the Draw, where chance might place them in the poshest Row house or in a campus backwater (here’s looking at you, Potter), not to mention fling them far from many of their friends. And then there’s the sophomore slump, when the thrill of being in college wanes and the pressure of finding one’s path bears down. Suffice it to say, the Residential Education live/learn system is one of the most memorable parts of the Stanford experience, but it also has headroom to improve students’ sense of home and belonging.
Enter the ResX initiative—a multiyear planning effort sprung from the university’s Long-Range Vision that means to strengthen relationships, learning and inclusion in student residences. A central recommendation of the ResX Task Force was to group the dorms and houses into neighborhoods (see a map here), where most undergrads would spend all four years with the same cohort. Within each neighborhood, they said, students should have equal access to increasingly desirable and more independent housing options over time. Seeing opportunity in the disruption wrought by the pandemic, university leaders announced in February that the neighborhoods would launch in Fall 2021, a few years earlier than planned. “ResX gives us a chance to restart how we want to build values-based communities,” Susie Brubaker-Cole, Stanford’s vice provost for student affairs, said in the announcement.
‘I generally think that it’s a social stress that would be lost—in a good way.’
Each of the eight neighborhoods will have a gathering hub, advising services, dining areas and meeting spaces. Students will be responsible for personalizing their neighborhoods by selecting their own themes, crests, mascots and traditions. Meanwhile, university-wide theme houses, such as ethnic theme dorms, co-ops and Greek houses, will remain available to all upperclass students.
Akshay Jaggi, ’19, a former frosh RA, sees a lot of upsides to the plan. “There’s still lots of choice within a more constrained system,” he says. And the sunsetting of the Draw in favor of a seniority-based system could calm a lot of anxiety. “I generally think that it’s a social stress that would be lost—in a good way.”
The new model increases access to all-frosh housing, which senior Alexa Thomson views as a plus. And she’s hopeful that neighborhoods will mitigate the “slump,” which, for her, came junior year when the Draw left her unassigned; she eventually ended up in Florence Moore Hall without any close friends. “I was feeling so separate and lonely my junior fall,” she recalls. “Anyone experiences a slump at one point or another; having familiar faces that make you feel like part of a community is so meaningful.”
As neighborhood planning continues, Stanford will follow this story online and in print.
Jill Patton, ’03, MA ’04, is the senior editor of Stanford. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.