Stanford Kissing Ritual Is a Petri Dish of Mono

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Photo: ERIN LUBIN/Getty Images

On a magical night each fall, Stanford upperclassmen welcome the freshmen with kisses in a quaint campus tradition called Full Moon on the Quad. Well, each fall except fall ’09, when pandemic swine flu was everywhere. You see, Full Moon on the Quad is not your average night of DFMOs. The competitively orgiastic ritual might hold the world record for largest exchange of oral secretions. Freshmen rack up kisses in the triple digits, while upperclassman check off freshman types (twins, redheads, 2400 on their SATs) on bingo boards. The center square is the Tree, Stanford’s mascot who must, according to tradition, kiss anyone who asks. This year that meant 566 distinct bacterial bouquets. “Never kiss the Tree,” a recent graduate warned the New York Times. “He’s like Patient Zero.”

According to the Times report, the event is a public-health hazard requiring what’s known as “mass-gathering medicine,” most famously used in Saudi Arabia’s multimillion-dollar efforts to keep annual pilgrimages to Mecca epidemic-free. To prepare for the flu season “potentiator,” the school offers flu and meningitis shots and doles out Dixie cups full of mouthwash. Adding to the gross, peer health counselors warn freshman to tone down oral hygiene leading up to the event, lest they increase their risk of infection. “We tell them, ‘Don’t floss beforehand, don’t brush, don’t do anything that could create microabrasions in your gums for germs to get in,” said former counselor Michelle Lee Mederos. And while we’re on the topic of how to avoid mono your freshman year at college, take it from Cut Kat: No matter what your nice new friends offering to share their shot glasses say, vodka does not kill the germs.