This Monday, May 14, at 9:30am, the residents, alumni, and friends of Chi Theta Chi (XOX) will march on the office of Vice Provost for Student Affairs to defend the house’s lease before the deaf ears of the Stanford administration. If you want to save this house’s independence, you must join them.
Stanford, a variety of legitimate causes on campus compete for your attention. As a small, close-knit community, XOX does not have a big voice, and it might seem marginal enough not to merit your attention. But nothing could be further from the truth. The case of XOX represents the way “Mama Stanford” will continue to impose its heavy hand on any students who run afoul of the administration’s nebulous parameters for acceptable conduct. As Kappa Sigma and the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band know from recent experience, once you get on the administration’s bad side, they will come after you like a pack of rabid wolves the next time you slip up, no matter how minor your mistake is, or how little warning you have received.
XOX has faced the worst of this moralistic bullying. With no advance warning, the University decided to revoke XOX’s lease unilaterally; after months of negotiations between the house’s Alumni Board and administration officials, the Vice Provost’s office has only offered to reconsider the house’s lease after a two-year “interim period.” Given the current behavior of the administration, this solution is unacceptable for the following reasons:
- Administration officials refuse to provide a clear and defined path to renewal, instead hiding behind vagaries, insisting on having final veto power. Administration officials have refused to give a compelling reason why, after all of their safety concerns have been addressed, they still need to assume ownership for this interim period. Specifically, the officials have refused to explain why the house cannot remain independently operated by the house’s Alumni Board during a period of heightened administrative supervision, an agreement that would better prove the Board’s competence.
- During this interim period, Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE) intends to assume control over all finances and renovation projects, breaking a 92-year tradition of independent management and a culture that rests on student control over our operating budget. R&DE will also be able to close and vacate a house that has remained permanently open to the Stanford community for at least 40 years at its own prerogative. R&DE will also be be able to rent the house out to summer conferences and camps, eliminating one of Stanford’s few affordable on-campus summer housing options.
- The University’s new arrangement will damage XOX’s identity because R&DE and the Vice Provost’s Office have continuously displayed a fundamental lack of understanding of the co-op’s culture. These officials have attempted to change the staff structure and reduce the number of managers, even though the current staff structure is integral to the functioning of the house as anyone understands it. They have expressed the desire to put electronic locks on the house’s outer doors, violating its essential spirit of openness that makes it such a special place for me and the other people who have lived there.
- XOX’s culture is rooted in its independence. In continuing to assume ownership, R&DE and Student Affairs are explicitly ignoring the unanimous resolution passed by the ASSU that calls for XOX to remain independent. As someone who has lived in the house, I can assure you that the idea of independence is not simply to provide an environment where there are no rules or regulations, as the University seems to believe. XOX has a big staff precisely to ensure that the house is well-run, safe, welcoming, and responsive to the students’ concerns. XOX’s alternative approach to Stanford living may irk those in the administration who seek to provide a more homogenous Stanford living experience–the kids can paint their walls and use their own furniture; what a horror!–but for the rest of the Stanford community, the house’s non-standardized atmosphere and administrative style adds to the its charm and storied history.
I lived in XOX as a sophomore. Among other things, the experience taught me how to cook, garden, clean, and overall maintain a house that gets a lot of healthy wear and tear. The people who were attracted to this community were simply unlike any others I had encountered at Stanford; they wanted to sign up for this challenge, and they were invested in taking care of their home in a way that enabled us to bond far more than I ever have in an impersonal Stanford dorm.
The Stanford administration is powerful, and XOX and its supporters lack the leverage to force the University’s hand in the way that one might hope. However, with a forceful and passionate turnout on Monday, we can show the University that this cause will not go away, that Stanford students will continue to rally together to preserve a special part of their community that they would like to preserve in its unique current form.
I hope you will rise to this occasion and stand up for a house that needs you.