By Alex Tsai
Full Moon on the Quad (FMOTQ), one of Stanford’s longest-standing yearly traditions, is set to take place Wednesday night, the first iteration of the event in the era of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
The University-sanctioned event, where students gather in Main Quad for an “orgy of interclass kissing,” also coincides with one of the harshest flu seasons in recent history, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Since its inception, the event has taken several forms, with notable changes — gratitude cards, white roses and a later date — implemented for last year’s FMOTQ. Student planners and University administrators are confident that the revised event, with a greater emphasis on gratitude and consent, has a continued place at Stanford.
“Me Too and Time’s Up are calling for culture change,” said Carley Flanery, director of the Office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse (SARA). “The folks behind these movements are demanding the folks in charge no longer ignore their experiences and make real changes.”
Flanery sees the recent changes to FMOTQ as examples of the change in culture here on campus. One of the major themes for this year’s event is consent. According to Flanery, generating a positive culture around affirmative consent at FMOTQ has not been not easy.
“[Consent] doesn’t just happen for [FMOTQ],” she said.
Other efforts to establish a culture of consent at Stanford include programs like Beyond Sex Ed — mandatory for all freshmen during New Student Orientation — and training for Resident Assistants (RAs) and Peer Health Educators (PHEs), who influence students’ experience from their first days on campus.
Snehal Naik, associate dean and associate director of Student Activities and Leadership (SAL), agreed that FMOTQ in its unchanged form has only undermined the goal of affirmative consent.
“It had devolved into an event … we were not proud of planning,” Naik said.
Following a 2016 event with reports of sexual assault and alcohol transports, Naik penned a letter to then-Vice Provost Greg Boardman explaining his reservations with the tradition, saying the event had “gotten to an [untenable] point” given certain incidents.
“You name it; it happened at FMOTQ,” Naik said.
The goal of student organizers and administrators last year was to preserve the positive aspects of the tradition, which emphasized mutual appreciation while removing the more unsavory, patriarchal elements. An intentional working group of 10 administrators and 10 students gave feedback and offered suggestions for the event.
“Some of the administrators were alums [who] could give context to the event and what it devolved into,” Naik said. “The work that came out was really incredible [and allowed us] to see and hear not [just] one side of the story.”
Following a period of deliberation, some wholesale changes went into effect for last year’s event. Instead of taking place on the night of the first full moon of the school year, FMOTQ was pushed back until winter quarter, giving new students more time to adjust to their environment.
Students had to present their ID cards to enter the Quad, and they were not permitted to attend if they appear intoxicated.
“Previous FMOTQs were shrouded in secrecy, where the frosh weren’t told what it was, but they knew they had to go to the Quad and that there was kissing involved,” said Ralph Castro, associate dean of students and director of the Office of Alcohol Policy & Education (OAPE). “It created a lot of social anxiety.”
This scheduling change was designed to reduce alcohol abuse and the potential desire to pre-game. Naik believes that goal was met, citing the fact that there were zero alcohol transports last year, which was unusual.
Handing out mouthwash, Taruc explained, was a previous FMOTQ practice that contributed to the event’s focus on kissing.
“The mouthwash table used to be like a bar, basically, where students would take shots of mouthwash,”he said. “That kind of vibe is shifting now.”
Now, organizers of the event try to emphasize gratitude. Students can write gratitude cards for each other and exchange them for a rose, a nod to FMOTQ’s origins. Rather than have a DJ perform, which created a club-like atmosphere, the music will be low-key with a performance by student band Brass Acid Collective.
“The event is still intended partially to encourage people to push their own boundaries and reexamine their comfort zone but is now structured in a way that allows students to do that exploration for themselves rather than feeling pressured to kiss people by bright lights and a dance-floor-like setting,” junior class president Tony Moller ’19 stated.
FMOTQ this year also comes with public health concerns. Viral outbreaks have recently struck fraternity houses on campus, namely Sigma Nu.
During the first week of winter quarter, a message circulated in the PHE GroupMe that several of the fraternity’s residents had contracted norovirus. In addition, Kappa Alpha RA Nicolas Landinez ’18 said that a pair of roommates in that house exhibited flu-like symptoms over the weekend but have since recovered.
Due to the risk of contagion that FMOTQ exacerbates, PHEs encourage residents to make health-conscious decisions, according to Miguel Taruc ’19, the PHE in Serra house.
Each year, the junior class is responsible for organizing FMOTQ. In an email sent to all undergraduates, SAL and the Class of 2019 presidents discouraged sick students from participating in the event. In their email, they noted, “If you have flu-like symptoms, we discourage you from having contact with other individuals that night. Please respect the health of your fellow Stanford students!”
“With the flu season, we did want to mention [the risk of sickness] in our messaging to be aware of one’s health,” said Naik, who also advises the junior class presidents.
Changes over time
FMOTQ has changed dramatically since its beginnings in the early years of the University’s existence.
“The [original] tradition was that under the first full moon of the year, freshman women would come to the Quad and receive their first kiss ever from a senior male, and from there they would become a woman,” Castro said.
According to Naik, the revamped version of FMOTQ was met with positive reviews in 2017.
“I have heard zero negative feedback from last year’s event,” he said. “People were actually surprised because they thought the administration was cracking down on a beloved tradition.”
However, initial announcements that FMOTQ would be revised were met with skepticism and disappointment among student leaders. Moller calls the changes to FMOTQ in recent years a “forced restructuring,” citing student concerns that the move is a sign of Stanford’s efforts at “Harvard-izing” itself by reexamining abiding Stanford traditions. According to Moller, “many feel — rightfully so — as though the very irreverent spirit that makes Stanford special is under attack.”
Though Moller shares some of these frustrations, he said he also sympathizes with the administrations’ “[struggle] to adapt to a changing climate on today’s college campuses.” He added that “student life at Stanford has been under a huge amount of both internal and external scrutiny” due to the sexual assault scandal involving Brock Turner.
Nevertheless, Moller has faith in the ability of the student body to reconcile with recent changes and construct a “stronger and safer” Stanford culture.
Flanery views the new version of FMOTQ as an important step toward encouraging appropriate consent.
“[We want students] to be asked whether they want a photograph taken, to be hugged, to be kissed, whether or not they want a rose or card from someone,” she said. “Not only to be able to ask and hear a ‘yes’ back but also hear a ‘no’ is important. To hear a ‘maybe later’ and respect that gracefully, with dignity. Because that’s life.”
This year’s junior class presidents emphasized that students should not take the future of FMOTQ for granted.
“Full Moon on the Quad is a long-standing student tradition that is a privilege, not a right,” Moller said. “Each year’s success determines if FMOTQ can continue.”
Junior class president Tashrima Hossain ’19 explained that while the event did not change drastically between 2017 and 2018, one of the organizers’ main goals is to maintain the positive changes that were implemented last year.
“I think the way we are running FMOTQ is very empowering in the sense that it is all about consent and what you want and what you don’t want,” Hossain said. “If anyone is feeling uncomfortable, we’ll have adult administrators and student volunteers there to make sure everyone is feeling safe.”
Moller said he personally believes FMOTQ is a tradition that deserves to be preserved.
“FMOTQ has always been, at its core, an expression of love for Stanford, affiliation with our shared community and willingness to push one’s boundaries,” he wrote in an email to The Daily. “The semantics of the night may change, but the importance of it remains.”
Contact Alex Tsai at aotsai ‘at’ stanford.edu and John Timony at jtimony ‘at’ stanford.edu.
An earlier version of this story misspelled Tashrima Hossain’s last name. The Daily regrets this error.