I've lived in the Bay Area for more than 20 years, but somehow missed this tradition at Stanford: Full Moon on the Quad.
As the New York Times reported Friday it's "an event unique in American education: an orgy of interclass kissing reluctantly but officially sanctioned by the university."
How you respond to this might depend on your age.
My initial reaction was "ewwww!" But a (younger) colleague asked, "Is it horrible to confess to you: I'd probably join in?!?!"
The event was held last week, on Oct. 22. With thousands of students milling around waiting, the Times described what happened next:
Finally, a male senior saunters over to a group of the youngest-looking women and asks: “Hey! You freshmen? Can I kiss you?”
As the Stanford Band plays and a giant screen shows famous movie clutches, the bravest women step forward and receive the traditional welcome to one of the nation’s most prestigious universities: a big wet upperclassman smack.
I think you can guess why this is a health story.
"Days later, another tradition arrives: flu and mononucleosis, the 'kissing disease,' sweep the dorms," says the Times.
It's now been 10 days since Full Moon on the Quad or FMOTQ.
Just a few minutes after I read the Times' piece, a release from Stanford popped up in my inbox -- 52 students had come down with norovirus. That's the virus commonly called "stomach flu" and generally causes vomiting and diarrhea.
Norovirus spreads like wildfire and risk factors for contracting the virus include having "close personal contact" with an infected person, says the CDC.
While any reasonable person might think that "an orgy of interclass kissing" would qualify as "close personal contact," it's also true that association does not equal causation, as a reader notes in the comments below.
The Stanford Daily is following the health story, from a different angle. On Friday the paper reported "there's no shortage of illness going around campus" now that FMOTQ is over. And what's the "worst, and probably most ubiquitous, symptom" of post-FMOTQ sickness? Coughing, the Daily believes. So the paper helpfully ranks five campus study spots by "coughing awkwardness."
Yet there's a more serious health story, too. Not surprisingly, an event that involves kissing a bunch of strangers can make people nervous. That kind of social anxiety can lead to excess alcohol consumption. The Daily reported last week that medical transports related to FMOTQ were down this year possibly due to attempts to emphasize "safe drinking vs. unsafe drinking."
And yes, Stanford officials have tried to ban the event, The Times notes, but since they've been unsuccessful, the university is focusing on trying to make the event safer.
The evening is overseen by student sobriety monitors and decorated with hand-drawn signs — of the ilk that usually say "Beat Cal” — but bearing slogans like “Consent is Sexy.”
This post has been updated with more information about norovirus.