Shattering the SLE Stereotype?

I’ve heard that SLE kids are perhaps more artsy and less techy,” said Rebecca Amato ’14. “Also, I’ve noticed I haven’t met too many right-handed IHUM kids. So SLE kids must be left-handed,” she joked.

“It sounds like a disease,” said Maria Posa ’14. “She’s got the ‘SLE.’”

So go some “SLE kid” sterotypes. And almost every year, it plays out in Gaieties: big glasses, parted hair, awkward social habits. At a house meeting, one student commented that her dorm was able to laugh at the dramatization all the more because it was so removed from the truth.

SLE students live not on another planet, but in Florence Moore (FloMo).

“It’s not really a cave,” joked Ben Radcliffe ’13. “We venture out on occasion, like Fridays and Saturdays.”

The program includes lectures and sections based in a residence hall. Films, plays and tutoring are mixed in with daily dorm life. With the activities kept in one area, there is a stigma about the program that comes from the outside: the IHUM world.

But Faisan, like typical freshman dorms, has a lounge, stairs, resident assistants (RAs), laptops attached to students and long hallways. At a routine house meeting, residents showed clear camaraderie–one student ran around hugging everyone. Another dressed in full attire as a dictator for an upcoming play. Others brought in freshly baked goods for the taking. And the couches were full.

“Four of us sophomores re-applied for FloMo because we love it so much,” Radcliffe said. “SLEers are really into kooky, eccentric things. One of them is our authoritarian government, which manages Faisan daily life. There’s an oligarchy called the Council of Five, which bakes and puts up posters. It tries to instill a sense of discipline and order.”

“There’s also a revolution, led by me,” RA Morielle Stroethoff ‘12 added. “The revolution believes not in the pursuit of perfection. We believe in love and compassion. And also peanut butter and honey sandwiches.”

Stoethoff reflected on the residents she has met during fall quarter as an RA.

“My freshmen this year are amazing, so real and honest,” she said. “Everyone has a really strong personality and usually has a weird talent you don’t know about. [It’s] a combination of fuzzy and techy [people].”

But if SLE kids are so like your average Stanford students, why is there the stigma? One SLE alumna had a theory.

“Quite a bit is that FloMo is more distant than other dorms,” said Nabila Abdallah ’13.

“I was one of the not-so-studious of SLE kids,” she added. “My average sleep time was 4 a.m., and it wasn’t part of studying. In SLE, I pretty much got to know everyone.”

Some stereotypes might emerge just because SLE is so self-contained.

“Socially? It was difficult that I didn’t know many people well outside my dorm. I’m still struggling with that balance,” said Gregory Valdespino ’13.

But for many students, the relative isolation is worth it.

“SLE doesn’t enlighten you,” added Valdespino. “It gives you the skills to think. It’s not like I know everything, but my curiosity has been piqued in enough things that I know what questions to ask.”

Students read Greek epics, scripture, English classics and more.

“You can see the trajectory of thoughts in academia,” Valdespino explained. “With some professors and some ideas, you see how they apply to our modern life, how the struggles I’m going through in college, intellectually or socially, have been going on long through civilization.”

More than 90 professors lecture by the end of the year.

SLE students take in a wide breadth of the humanities. Techies enjoy that they don’t have to take a ton of fuzzy classes later on. Fuzzies enjoy absorbing material they’re passionate about, which they could go on to study even more in the future.

Eva Oped ’14 gave an inside scoop on lingo unique to SLE.

“SLEcture, SLEssays, SLEople, SLEction, Flove,” Oped said. “SLove means SLincest. SLExile could be SLE exile because we take over all the lounges. North FloMorians are people who are around during the day but suspiciously go elsewhere at night.”

The general consensus seems to be that those who choose SLE love it.

“The community definitely is close-knit,” Oped went on. “We really take care of each other.”

SLE administrators feel the companionship encouraged by the SLE program, as well.

“I get a sense of the community in the lecture sections because I see the way they talk to each other,” said history professor and SLE academic director Carolyn Lougee. “It’s not that they’re sitting there talking about Plato, but there are a lot of close friendships. At our banquet, there was a challenge to translate a passage of a Latin epic into English poetry. Eight people read poems. Everybody loves it when they see their classmates achieving.”

“We don’t nurture competition at all. One person’s accomplishment is everyone’s glory,” Lougee added.

As apart as SLE might sometimes seem from the rest of the Stanford world, administrators do their best to see that the community isn’t totally separated from other dorms.

“We had the opportunity to move the dorm to Roble and we said no because it wasn’t sure that they would be mixed in with other dorms,” Lougee said. “It wouldn’t be good if they were set apart.“

“The new ideas in my life [from SLE] made a big impact, maybe because I’m from a small-town farm in Idaho,” said SLE assistant director Greg Watkins ’85 Ph.D. ’03. “We have a year to cultivate a different way of thinking about what you study and about life in general.”

About Sophia Vo