Widgets Magazine


Why rollouts need to end on campus

If someone were to suggest breaking into houses early in the morning and waking up all the people who live there in order to welcome one of them to a group, we would call that a crime. But under the auspices of tradition, Stanford students do exactly this. Roll-outs are an unnecessary inconvenience on our campus, and we would build a safer, stronger community without them.

At a very basic level, the concept of forcibly waking up new members in student groups is a form of hazing. Stanford defines hazing as anything “that causes or is reasonably likely to cause another student to suffer bodily danger, physical harm, or significant personal degradation or humiliation.” Sleep deprivation as part of an initiation is certainly a type of physical harm. The argument that people enjoy roll-outs mirrors the argument that new members of fraternities (who also do roll-outs, though theirs may also include alcohol) approve of hazing, but after the fact: Few people enjoy being forcibly woken up at 5 or 6 in the morning, but in retrospect, they may see their roll-out with nostalgia, as their welcoming into a community. But retrospective enjoyment does not justify depriving students of sleep.

Moreover, in order for student groups to do roll-outs, many groups climb through the windows of lounges to access the dorm. If other students can enter the dorm through those windows, anyone can. It’s entirely possible that thefts have occurred as a result of these open windows. R&DE does not give students access to other students’ dorms because it is a safety hazard. Yet residents still justify breaking into dorms through open windows in the name of tradition.

Beyond these two points, roll-outs are an intrusion of student privacy and personal life. Whether a student has an athletic commitment the next day, is sick and would like to get better or has some sort of test or midterm, other students have no right to impede him or from doing so. That is the reason dorms have quiet hours, which extend through the time when most roll-outs occur. Physically fatiguing students has no place in a student group that cares about its members.

But even if one were to argue that by joining a student group, a new student is now a member of their community and thus must participate in roll-outs, that argument does not apply to every other member of the dorm. Roommates, which nearly all freshmen have, will also be woken up. Others in nearby rooms will likely be awoken as well. No group has the right to wake up these students, especially ones who simply live near members of that group. Roll-outs are like smoking a cigarette in someone else’s house without permission: It imposes on him or her in personal space. So even if student groups can fatigue their own group members, they certainly should not wake people unrelated to their groups.

Finally, roll-outs are an issue of insensitivity. As is especially the case with a cappella groups, sororities and fraternities, not everyone is accepted into those groups. In the case where those student groups do not inform applicants that they have been rejected ahead of time, such students might be woken by a roll-out, waiting in anticipation and excitement of their acceptance, only to find out by the absence of knocking on their door that the group they loved and hoped to join had rejected them. This point could at least be relieved by informing people that they have been accepted or rejected from a group prior to roll-outs. It would eliminate much of the surprise, but could only resolve this single issue.

I understand the desire by student groups to welcome members into their community, to show them how excited everyone is to have them and to assemble everyone together at a time when they are guaranteed to be free (i.e. when they normally would be sleeping). These are valid goals. But what is important to realize is that it is not the act of waking people up at 5 in the morning that makes roll-outs effective; rather, it is how senior group members made them feel accepted and welcomed and displayed their excitement and enthusiasm about the new members. People won’t remember what you said or did, but how you made them feel.

We can build community without rolling people out and interrupting their sleep; many on campus already do not get enough. One way to welcome students is simply with a morning breakfast at 8, or asking them to be in their dorms in the afternoon for a procession through the dorms to pick up and welcome students. Or groups could make up other creative ways that are less intrusive on other students in dorms. While everyone does roll-outs in good fun, we can make community without bothering whole dorms. Let’s all be better members of the larger Stanford community and end roll-outs now.

Contact Joe Troderman at jtrod93 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Joe Troderman

Joe Troderman is a columnist for The Stanford Daily. He is a member of the class of 2016 from Canton, Mass. (it's near Boston) pursuing a major in chemical engineering. Joe is passionate about the environment and enjoys playing poor-quality improvisational music on any stringed instrument he can find. To contact him, please mail him at jtrod93 'at' stanford.edu or P.O. Box 13387, Stanford, Calif. (even if it is just ad hominem attacks on his character, it will make his day to receive a letter that isn't for car insurance or bank accounts).
  • Class of 2009

    This is on point. The fact that people can wake up a whole sleep-deprived floor in order to congratulate one person is absurd. Life is hard enough without getting forcibly woken up at the crack of dawn for no reason. Celebration is great, but it should be contained and shouldn’t pointlessly disrupt others.

  • ’17

    The article is utter nonsense. He claims that “sleep deprivation” is hazing. If this is the case, then I suppose we should outlaw taking classes as well. People miss a lot more sleep working on problem sets than they do for roll outs. This is such a bad argument that it’s really not hard to see that this person is mostly just bitter (probably wrote this one morning when he was woken up for someone else’s roll out) and needed something that almost sounded cogent, and this is the first thing he came up with.

    The open windows argument is different. First of all these windows are insecure, period. They are not insecure because of roll outs. They are simply insecure. Abolishing rollouts does not magically secure windows. (Beyond that, though, every student should be able to enter the buildings on campus. Restricting people’s access to only their dorm is rather unreasonable.)

    Another gem: “Physically fatiguing students has no place in a student group that cares about its members.” Actually, I bet every single club sport has conditioning specifically designed to physically fatigue its members.

    Roll outs aren’t going anywhere anytime soon because the vast majority of people on campus see them as a fun tradition.

  • Class of 2009

    Physical conditioning has a purpose. Waking up a bystander at dawn on the morning of a midterm because of “tradition” doesn’t really hold water from a cost/benefit perspective. Sleep is really, really important and making several people drag ass all day so one person can celebrate is inconsiderate.

  • rick

    Rollouts are complete disregard for everyone in that dorm trying to sleep. I’m not sure why no one has cracked down on this.

  • thebeard

    Article clearly written by someone butthurt about never getting rolled out for anything

  • Candid One

    This is childish, silly, sophistry. There’s no redeeming virtue to hazing or “Initiation” in any social context. Immaturity is a given within the college student environment…but that it’s a positive attribute has never been a valid notion. “Tradition” is an inane and inept euphemism to excuse immaturity.

  • Candid One

    Middle-school silliness.

  • junior

    I completely understand that people don’t like getting woken up by their roommate/floormate’s rollouts, but I think it is a tradition worth keeping. Maybe there could be certain weeks later on in the quarter, once midterms and finals start up in full swing, in which rollouts are prohibited, but for the beginning of the quarter I think they’re a fun, unique tradition.

  • Matt Smith

    One year, we had 2 gentlemen named “Matt Smith” vie for admission, and we (in our early morning fog) rolled out the wrong one. THAT was a rough experience on both sides of the door.

  • 2014

    Thank you for speaking out! Roll-outs are a terrible tradition.

  • Cindy Lou Who

    Don’t be a Grinch, just get some sleep and your heart will grow three sizes (not literally – that would be bad) 🙂