Harvard of the East meets the "Harvard of the West' on the gridiron in Palo Alto, for that is how boastful Westerners refer to Stanford University. West of the Mississippi, Stanford in fact carries all the social and intellectual prestige that Harvard has in the East But at opposite ends of the continent, these universities represent opposite ways of college life. The gay, outdoor, coed, magazine-type collegiate life dominates Stanford. Often called a playboy's school, Stanford presents a happy blend of good comradeship, rural atmosphere, and high scholarship.
The three blend into something few Harvard men can under stand, the "Stanford spirit." It is something that makes people cheer their heads off at rallies, wear rooters' caps at football games, and yell like mad for a team that loses every game. It is an odd fact that Stanford's cheering was best when their team was worst--they actually did lose every game. It is an attitude of friendliness and love for the school that pervades the campus. Everyone is friendly "down on the Leland Stanford Farm."
The first hint a student receives of this is his arrival on the campus. There is no hazing to indoctrinate the newcomer in "spirit," nor does he spend his first few days facing a barrage of tests. He steps off the train and is welcomed by a special committee of sophomores. He sees a big sign in the station "Welcome Freshmen." He is guided to the campus, where his first days contain welcoming speeches, a big dance, meetings with advisers, exchange dinners with the girls' dorms, a tour around the "Farm," a varsity football game, and a barbecue supper for all new students. Thus he is introduced to the Stanford way of life.
Thirty-three Miles to Frisco
A rural atmosphere is part of the Stanford scheme. Away from the crowded cities, boys and girls, or rather roughs and coeds as they are called, are supposed to grow up in an invigorating atmosphere. The University's 9000 acres give students room to get up and stretch, while the intellectual advantages of San Francisco remain only 33 miles away.
Scholarship is skillfully added to this apparently carefree scheme. Stanford stands high on any scholastic ranking of American colleges and is generally regarded the best in the West. Its faculty salaries have always been large enough to attract top men in all fields. Admission is as tough for Californians as Harvard admission is for Easterners.
The origins of Stanford are shrouded in myths which go back to the great railroad man and Senator Leland Stanford himself. The story goes that the Senator gathered a few of his millions together and with a generous heart and bulging bank roll, proceeded to Yale University. (Some stories say it was Harvard, others both Harvard and Yale.) That dignified institution turned down the "tainted" money, feeling that it could not build a university with money gouged from California formers by a railroad monopoly. "Very well, I'll found a university of my own," said the good Senator, and so he did. Far too modest to name his institution after himself, he named it after his son, Laland Stanford, Jr.
Apart from the legend, the official story goes that the university was founded soon after the death of young Leland, in memory of the boy who died just before he reached college age. Senator Stanford expressed the desire that the university should bring intellectual life to the West and add to the vigor of the Western experience. He wanted a college that was free from the outworn traditions of older universities, especially one that would, in his words, "qualify its students for personal success and direct usefulness in life." He felt that colleges had become too far removed from American life. The new university would try to add practical knowledge to cultural experience.
Accordingly, the college was dedicated one year after Leland Jr.'s death, in 1885. It was built on the Senator's old horse farm, and the campus has been called "the Farm" ever since. In 1891, David Starr Jordan was appointed its first president, and in October of that year, the College began. From then on, Stanford grew with the West. Jordan quickly made the new school the intellectual center of the West. He led it through the troublesome early years and started its amazingly rapid growth. In 1915, Ray Lyman Wilber became president and completed the job of making Stanford a leading educational institution. He anticipated general education with a "lower division" program requiring a student to divide his studies for his first two years almost equally among the three general fields, humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences. Donald B. Tresidder was president from the early thirties until his sudden death two years ago. His extremely friendly relationship with the students is greatly responsible for that current phenomenon, Stanford spirit.
The Cheering Section
This spirit is perhaps best shown in rooting. Rooting for a team may be a casual act for an Easterner, but Californians take their cheering seriously. The supreme example of this is the West coast's Big Game--Stamford vs. California. These rivals from different sides of San Francisco Bay have been slugging it out with an intensity matched only by the Harvard-Yale tradition. But the Eastern rivalry is merely a contest between teams; out West, the whole school joins in the fray.
Two weeks before the scheduled game, martial law is declared on both campuses. Raiding parties can be expected any night. A concrete "C" in the Berkeley Hills usually gets a coat of cardinal red paint (Stanford's color), and numerous blue C's appear on the Farm. At Stanford, the defense of the college is turned over to the freshmen. Groups of these eager youths patrol the campus all night long. At any sign of danger, they ring the fire bell, the signal for the whole college to come to their aid. Both universities threaten expulsion for anyone caught defacing property, but the custom has grown of turning anyone caught over to the freshmen, instead of the University police. Solemn rites are then performed on the victim, his hair is shaved off, and a bright red "S" painted on his pate.
The Big Game
On the day of the Big Game, thre is no such, thing as being fashionably late to the game. Both rooting sections are filled half an hour before the game begins, and a cheering battle is staged. One year, the Stanford section unrolled a huge paper finger, about 15 rows long, and made obscene motions with it in the direction of the Cal section.
The rooting section itself is not the haphazard affair of an Ivy League school. There are two oblong sections, one for roughs, the other for coeds. All the roughs wear white shirts and rooters' caps. These caps are red on one side and white on the other. Certain designated people wear the red side of their hats up; everyone else wears white. The result of this folderol is a red S on a white background. Meanwhile the girls' section is com- Pletely equipped with pompoms. These are sticks with a lot of red and white confetti on the and, Whenever anything exciting happens, a mass of pom-poms waves madly in the air, and whenever the band plays, all the red and white confetti moves in time to the music.
Once the game begins, the noise really starts. The head cheer leader has a P.A. system to give instructions to the rooters. Every time the team comes out of the huddle, the rooting section omits a mighty rear. On a close play, everyone stamps his feet, creating thunder before the rear. Cheers are frequent, and one tradition soaked cheer, the venerable "Axe Yell," is reserved all year long for a crucial point in the Big Game. When it finally comes, the whole stands fall into a hush as 7000 rooters boom out the tones of this famous chant. The inspired team immediately rushes to some great deed such as a first down or possibly a TD.
During the half-time, activity stops on the field but not in the cheering sections. Each rooter removes some colored cards tacked to his seat, and card stunts begin. Card stunts picture beautiful scenes and humorous scenes, spell out words--anything the ingenious minds of the rally committee can think of.
At the end of the game, its symbol, the axe, is presented to the winning team by the Governor of California. Forged in 1899 in the shape of a medieval battle axe, this weapon has had a stormy career. One month after its unveiling on the Stanford campus it was captured by California and carried off to Berkeley. Many years later, when it was beng removed from the vault of an Oakland bank, it was seized by a group known as the immortal six and brought back to the Farm. Another theft returned it to Berkeley until 1930, when 21 stalwarts from Stanford stormed a rally and captured it. Three years later, by mutual agreement, the Axe was made a Big Game trophy to be displayed in the student union of the winning team until the next Big Game. During the game, it is waved vigorously by the school which last won it, and after the game it is regularly presented by California's Governor.
Another quaint outlet for the Stanford spirit is the pajamarino. The freshmen men annually put on pajamas for the rally before the game with Southern California. The festivities begin with the freshmen parading down fraternity row. The frat men line up on both sides of the street with stale fruit and water hoses. Freshmen survivors of this-proceed to the basketball court where they become the feature attraction of the rally. Then they march over to Roble Hall to serenade the freshmen women. This serenade usually turns into an attempt to storm the sacred Roble Halls. Up fire escapes and through windows stream the pajamaclads, running through the corridors and gathering souvenirs on their way.
On the serious side of student life, there is a strongly organized government. The administration stand is that the college should provide a full extra-curricular life which should be run by a student organization. This organization is the ASSU, the Associated Students of Stanford University. With a budget of $150,000, the elected executive committee of the ASSU does not try to influence publications' editorial policies, it has a controlling had on their finances and supports an unwritten law that the Daily prints no sex or crime stories. Once the Daily editor himself trial, but no mention of it was made on the newspaper's pages.
Fraternities play a key part in this student government. Although about one third of the men live in fraternities, most of the student offices are held by Greek letter men. Sometimes, appointive positions are by custom considered the permanent property of a certain fraternity.
In spite of the broad powers given this executive committee, most students feel that it is a do-nothing organization. A move to put some 'new life" into the ASSU was started in one election when a non-fraternity man, who had never held an office before, entered the ASSU presidential campaign with a brass band and guitar playing campaign. Under a preferential balloting system, he had a large majority on the first count, but lost in the end by three votes.
The College's housing plan consists of dormitories, fraternities, and small living groups for women--no sororities. All freshmen live in dorms. Sophomore men have the choice of frats, a dormitory, or the Village, a former Army hospital. New dorms are being built.
Sororities used to play a strong part in Stanford social life--so strong a part that the university decided to abandon the sorority system during the thirties. The houses were bought by the College and now constitute a small residence living plan. Fraternities were abandoned during the war, and many thought that they would go the way of sororities. But the system returned after the war and now flourishes.
Social life at Stanford is completely different from Harvard's, for Stanford is coed with no strings attached. The radio is three males to one femme. "Why wait for weekends? is the motto. Picturesque couples dot the campus, longing on the lawn in front of the library or strolling to the Cellar for a cup of coffee. It is virtually a university policy that there be at least one open dance on campus each weekend. The aim is to provide a complete life for each student right on campus. This is almost accomplished except that Mr. and Mrs. Stanford insisted that no liquor should ever be allowed at their college.
Dry vs. Wet
The good Senator first wanted to build his college at the town of Mayfield but insisted that Mayfield become dry. When the citizens objected, he moved the site to the neighboring hamlet of Pale alto, which obligingly passed an anti-liquor law. By moving the local railroad station from Mayfield to Pale Alto, the former was easily reduced to a suburb of the latter. Pale Alto is still a dry town, and a group of bars do a wonderful business just across the town line.
A cornerstone of Stanford life is the honor code. This is similar tote Radcliffe plan, with no proctors at exams. The freshmen receive a very strong indoctrination into the spirit of the code, which is pictured to them as an essential part of Stanford life. The code is enforced by a student court, which has often expelled students for cheating. One attitude expressed is, "Usually I'd try to see what I can get away with, but they pull this honor business on you and you're stuck." Coupled with the Honor Code is the Fundamental Standard, which says, "Students are expected to show both within and without the university such respect for order, morality, personal honor, and the rights of others as is demanded of good citizens."
Stanford has two patron saints, who are the university's prime benefactors. The first of these is, of course, Senator Stanford. He is regularly honored on Founder's Day, a Stanford holiday. The other is Herbert Hoover, the school's leading alumnus. Long a member of the Board of Trustees, he sponsored the Hoover Memorial Library of War, Revolution, and Peace, the university's land-mark.
Stanford was once considered a "rich mans" school, but like Harvard, it now has students from all income brackets. It rose to the demand of World War II's veterans by almost doubling its enrollment to 8000. The position of a student working his way through the college is considerably eased by a university policy of providing many money earning opportunities for students. There is no social stigma attached to such work, for the late president, Donald B. Tresidder, as well as many student leaders, followed that same route.
Politically, Stanford is traditionally Republican. It is hard to tell what the sentiments of the student body are because there are no political clubs, and partisan politicians are not allowed to speak on campus. This removes from Stanford life the stormy political controversies that are so prominent at Harvard.
Thus the whole picture of Stanford life creates a situation precisely opposite to that at Harvard. Harvard's variety and emphasis on individuality give way at Stanford to an atmosphere that is responsible for the "Stanford spirit," an atmosphere of what some would call unity and others conformity