It’s been a long day of protest, and folks are getting settled into the encampment. Though it's nearly midnight, people are still pitching tents, moving sleeping bags and mattresses, and plugging in extension cords.
One enterprising student has set up a swinging hammock between two columns. Nearby lamp posts and the arcade's hanging bulbs provide soft yellow lighting overhead. People are gathered in small clusters, chatting softly.
It doesn’t feel different than any dorm lounge on a Monday night, except this space is filled with a veritable yard sale of sleeping bags, fabrics, tents, and duffle bags—and a much stronger sense of purpose. In addition to general buzz about the protest, I’ve also heard two active debates on divestment.
One conversation centered on how the university's endowment might regularly be used, while a second discussed renewables vs. coal/gas/oil, and whether the problem is inherently fossil fuels or simply their carbon emissions. Intelligent points were made on all sides—it is Stanford, after all—and even in the midst of great emotional stakes, people are determined to have a well-reasoned, science-based argument. It’s how we are trained.
I'm currently perched beneath the poster displaying the “community agreements” for this encampment. The social justice co-ops are certainly having their day; the document features principles such as “cultivating a culture of respect,” “maintaining a calm, quiet atmosphere when appropriate,” and “promoting a spirit of cooperation.” Idealistic perhaps, but setting the tone is crucial with such a large mobilization of human beings.
This is only the first night, and I’m sure the orderliness and clean lines will be tested in the days ahead—but for now, this is a camp charged with camaraderie and civility.
“Should I do homework? Or watch an episode of Friends?” a student muses out loud. "I think I’ll watch Friends.” Protest site, certainly, but still Stanford.