Widgets Magazine

FroSoStereotypes and other dorm generalizations

Since beginning the quarter as a new resident of Freshman Sophomore College (FroSoCo), it felt like it was almost impossible to run away from the stereotypes associated with my dorm. Every time I told someone where I lived, they would say, “Isn’t it really quiet and boring?” or “Isn’t everyone into STEM there?” or (my personal favorite), “Isn’t it basically on Mars?”

My immediate response to these assumptions was to defiantly and indignantly defend my dorm: to point out its two-room doubles, its proximity to Ricker (you can’t beat Death by Chocolate) and its cute little orange tree. But as days turned into weeks, I saw my beloved dorm reduced again and again to three ideas: quiet, far and nerdy.

This prompted me to think about other types of dorms, and the assumptions that lie in their classifications. As it turns out, dorms are generalized a lot. The labels of “all-frosh,” “four-class” and “FroSoCo” seem to carry with them unverified assumptions that dive far deeper than simple classifications of the years of their residents. This experience has made me realize just how much we stereotype dorms — and their residents — based on our preconceived notions.

As I looked at FroSoCo from an outsider’s standpoint, I found that while these dorm generalizations are partially rooted in truth, but a dorm full of almost 200 people from all different backgrounds just isn’t something that can be boiled down to three words. Just walking down one hall reveals musicians, artists, politics fans, athletes, gamers and so much more. This is true of every dorm, not just FroSoCo. One of the most beautiful parts of Stanford is its diversity, and that diversity naturally exists within every dorm. And yet, dorm stereotypes are still extremely prevalent in frosh culture.

One of the most fascinating things about dorm stereotypes is that a dorm’s community changes every year. Every year, it has new staff and new residents, and these new people can drastically change what it’s like to live in that dorm. In theory, dorm generalizations shouldn’t even exist. Despite this, students often choose dorms based on the image of the community they’ve been presented with. While this does create a group of largely like-minded residents, it also perpetuates this idea that a certain dorm is supposed to be a certain way. And when that happens, these recurring stereotypes of dorms — and the people in them — build up over time.

Some people choose all-frosh dorms because they think that’s the only way they’ll be able to party and have a wild frosh experience. Some people choose four-class dorms because they don’t want to deal with the partying in all-frosh dorms. Some people write off FroSoCo as quiet, far and nerdy. But when it comes down to it, none of these ideas are necessarily true. And if they are true, that’s only because the residents choose to make it that way, not because of some characteristics of the dorm as a whole. Even so, within every dorm, there’s a wide spectrum of people who don’t conform to those basic assumptions, or who see their dorm community as more than meets the eye.

As for FroSoCo, quiet, far and nerdy means very little to me. When you’re having a very intense game of Cards Against Humanity in the lounge, holding a dance party on the third floor, or playing a dorm-wide game of Mafia, the stereotype of “quiet” is the last thing on your mind. When you’re a five-minute walk to Late Night at Lag, “far” isn’t much of a problem either. When you’re at Stanford, “nerdy” can apply to literally anyone. Yes, we respect quiet hours. Yes, biking up Santa Teresa after a long day sucks. Yes, we celebrate our nerdiness and do p-sets in the lounges. But FroSoCo is more than its stereotypes. It, and every other dorm, is a vibrant, varied community.


Contact Kiara Harding at kiluha ‘at’ stanford.edu.