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Vigils on Campus

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Purpose of a Vigil:

Vigils are a powerful gathering of human spirit, an expression of remembrance, solidarity and support in the face of loss, violence, and heartbreak. We gather in vigil to honor pain, rage, and suffering. With shared action and compassion, we embrace and uplift individuals and community with respect, grace, and love.

Vigils at Stanford University:

In times of great tragedy or crisis, the university community responds to express solidarity and support. We’re here to help you plan, facilitate, and lead community vigils in line with our broader university values. 

Students, staff, and faculty who want to organize a gathering on campus may contact the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life for support. We will work with you in collaboration with departments across campus to help you coordinate your gathering, seek a suitable location, invite speakers, develop the program, and arrange logistical details. 

Planning a Community Gathering

Requesting Support:

  • To request support in hosting a community gathering, please complete this form
  • After you have submitted the completed form, a member of the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life will contact you and set up a time to meet.
  • In coordination with other university offices, we will help you plan the gathering, including reserving space, making the program, and arranging logistics.

Reserving Space:

  • Size: Consider the expected size of the gathering when choosing a potential location for the vigil. Participants should be able to gather with enough space to feel comfortable and to freely move about while gathered.
  • Accessibility: Gathering spaces should be fully accessible. While participants generally stand during most vigils, seating should be available for those who need to sit. Walkways should be flat and accessible by all. The possibility of using sound amplification, CART services, and/or ASL interpretation should be considered when choosing a location.
  • Centrality: Locations should be central to campus and conveniently reached.
  • Set Up: Consider if you would like to have a podium for speakers, chairs for presenters and/or participants. Will you need amplified sound?
  • Schedule: Consider day of week and time of day, potential conflicts with other events and activities, and convenience for broad participation.

Planning the Program:

  • Duration: Community gatherings in times of tragedy and crisis are generally less than an hour in length. Often a reception or social gathering may follow. Timing should balance the desire for a full program with the emotional impact on people leading and participating.
  • Speakers: Consider whose voices need to be heard. When inviting speakers, you may wish to focus on people who are most affected by the crisis, and offer space for students, staff, and faculty on the program. To include multiple voices, speakers should plan on speaking for 3 to 5 minutes each. A moderator can help coordinate the speakers.
  • Moments of Reflection: Consider including moments of reflection in between speakers to offer participants an emotional pause and an opportunity to engage the issues from a different perspective. Often music, poetry or prose can articulate our emotions best in these moments. 
  • Collective Action: Consider if there is a collective action participants can take. Often this is lighting a candle, but it could also be signing a declaration of support, creating a mural, taking away a token of remembrance or offering a token of remembrance like a flower or written note.
  • A general order of a program includes both speakers and moments of reflection.
    • Welcome and Gathering
    • Reflection in music or poetry or prose
    • Speakers (1-3)
    • Reflection in music, poetry, prose
    • Speakers (1-3)
    • Reflection in music, poetry, or prose
    • Collective Action
    • Closing


  • Emotional Support: Consider what types of support you might need for participants, including having counselors available. 
  • Safety and Security: Consider what measures you need to help the gathered community feel and be safe.


  • Consider if you will offer space for participants to gather informally after the program. 
  • Consider whether you will serve light refreshments. 


  • Consider how you will promote the gathering.
  • Consider how you will share the experience following the vigil to other audiences.