More to the Story: why Chi Theta Chi is losing its lease

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“Theta Chi House is a fine example of the Spanish Eclectic style of architecture and the work of a master architect, Will G. Corlett” reads the history of Chi Theta Chi (XOX) conducted last year. XOX is more than fifty years old, and is thus considered a an historic property. This fact has played very little into the recent events surrounding the decision by Stanford to not renew XOX’s lease. The University cited health and safety code violations and a lapse in corporate status as reasons for not renewing the lease, while XOX countered with protests about community and independence. However, the House itself is key to the debate, superseding more philosophical questions.

A Stanford administrator, who declined to go on the record in light of continuing negotiations between the University and XOX’s

Private Parking sign at XOX: If you park here we will: 1. Fuck you up 2. Put gum in your hair 3. Shit on your mother 4. Skin your cat 5. Frame you for a senseless crime 6. Sic Shotgun on you 7. Hex you 8. Fart in your ear 9. Make you eat a worm 10. Kick your firstborn + spit on your grave

Private Parking sign at XOX: If you park here we will: 1. Fuck you up 2. Put gum in your hair 3. Shit on your mother 4. Skin your cat 5. Frame you for a senseless crime 6. Sic Shotgun on you 7. Hex you 8. Fart in your ear 9. Make you eat a worm 10. Kick your firstborn + spit on your grave

alumni board, described how the House itself factored into the decision not to renew the lease: “what happens really is that you have these very big, large historic houses, that require extensive maintenance and upgrade. This is real care, not painting the living room, but specialized care.” The administrator went further: “their free spirit attitude was neglect to the point of vandalism. They don’t even see how it looks. It’s a combination of obliviousness and arrogance.” Currently, XOX House is in desperate need of repair. Floors and woodwork will need to be replaced or restored, bathrooms updated, and electrics rewired. The scope of the necessary maintenance is beyond what full time students can accomplish, and beyond what XOX’s alumni board can afford: it will take an estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars and several months to restore the property.

Last year, issues came to a head when it became necessary for XOX to replace windows whose wooden frames had rotted out. Administrative officials visiting the house found broken windows that had not been boarded up or replaced, broken bottles and furniture, and the house in general disrepair. In addition, XOX demonstrated a patent disrespect for the University. Outside the house, there was a sign describing a list of violent and obscene actions that would be taken against anyone who parked there. The sign was especially concerning because of Chi Theta Chi’s proximity to the Pearce Mitchell Houses, private homes owned by professors and alumni. Chi Theta Chi responded to a request to remove the sign by citing their free speech rights and left the sign up.

Portrait of J. Henry Meyer hanging in XOX

Portrait of J. Henry Meyer hanging in XOX

A more serious example of XOX’s disrespectful behavior was the theft of the portrait of J. Henry Meyer. Meyer, a successful San Francisco businessman, was a director of Wells Fargo Bank and the Spring Valley Water Company, as well as president of the California Street Cable Railroad Company. The Meyer family’s gifts to the University have included the support of the construction of Lane Medical Library, the establishment an endowed professorship in the Graduate School of Business in 1961 and the donation of a collection of valuable Western Americana addition to the popular J. Henry Meyer Library. Last year, administrators found the portrait of J. Henry Meyer, which had been stolen from Meyer Library, hanging above the fireplace in the XOX library. The eyes had been blacked out. Despite the seriousness of the incident, no police report or charges were ever filed. Under California Penal Code 487, the theft of an item valued at over $950 is considered Grand Theft and may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The portrait was restored and rehung, but within a month had been stolen again.

Tours of Stanford’s historic buildings go by XOX, and the display the house puts on for visitors does not fall in line with what Stanford’s image. For example, there have been complaints of broken glass outside the house as well as empty wine bottles collected in full view of the street. Stolen road signs have been displayed in the windows. In one instance, a yellow thunderbolt parked outside the house was covered in Post-It Notes that had penises drawn on them. The individual guiding the tour estimated that as many as five hundred visitors to Stanford got a glimpse into that particular side of student life. Neglecting the upkeep of the house, combined with disrespectful incidents such as these, have been sufficient to convince the administration that XOX’s lease should not be renewed.

While none of these incidents directly contributed to XOX losing its lease, they speak volumes to the disconnect between XOX and the Stanford Administration. In an environment where these occurrences are the norm, it is clear how XOX could neglect to maintain their property and communicate appropriately with the University, and how the administration could see not renewing their lease as a viable option: “they have a culture of free expression. I understand that. But if they can’t take care of the property themselves then they do not deserve to have it…with freedom comes responsibility.”

When dealing with historic properties, there is the question of whether the amount of work is beyond what can be handled by a students self-op. This is not to say that self-ops student owned houses are not viable in the eyes of the Stanford Administration. Sigma Chi, the other self-op house which has a lease-hold agreement with Stanford on campus, is an example where students and alumni have cooperated with the Administration to successfully maintain both the property and their independence. Sigma Chi has quarterly inspections to ensure that they are not in violation of health and safety codes, and that the house is being properly maintained.

When asked whether it would be possible for XOX to get their lease renewed, our source within the administration said “I cannot

How many things can you find wrong with this picture?

How many things can you find wrong with this picture?

imagine an appeal that would work. They don’t have the money to fix the problem. They don’t see the problem–they think the Administration just hates them.” Counter to what students may think, outcry from the student body over XOX’s lease mostly falls on deaf ears, and the silence from University in response to student protest has been deafening. The University has no reason to more transparent about its stance on XOX. Any response is fuel for student and alumni protest, and no reading of the situation is particularly favorable towards the University: either they appear to be acting unjustly towards XOX or they look ineffective for letting the situation escalate to the point where not renewing the lease was the only option.

Our source within the administration cited three things it would take for a self-op house which has a lease-hold agreement with Stanford to be able to maintain a an historical property. First, the property would have to start in good condition. Second, there would have to be significant oversight, from an active alumni board if not from Stanford itself. Thirdly, there would have to be mechanisms in place for the work and maintenance required for a an historic property. However, it is possible. “It’s not the case that [self-operation] has to fail as a model, but it takes some accountability. If you save their community, you are throwing their house in the trash […] the only way to save it is to move XOX out.” At Stanford, Sigma Chi is an example of a functional self-op. Berkeley, which has very little student housing and a high concentration of historic buildings, has many fraternities and other student groups that self-operate successfully.

One of several broken windows

One of several broken windows

At this point in time, despite the lobbying of the alumni board, XOX has no credibility with the Stanford Administration. If XOX wanted to retain it’s lease this next year, the changes would have to be extraordinary. Our source described the lengths that XOX would have to go. First, XOX would need a famous alumni to sponsor their bid to the University. That “angel” would need to have responsible backers, wealthy alumni involved in the community. While XOX needs to demonstrate heavy hitting leadership, no high profile alumni have publically championed XOX. It’s not out of the realm of possibility; a list of XOX alums would include such recognizable names as Packard as well as several Olympic medalists. As of now, however, XOX is effectively guaranteed to lose its lease. A statement made by Greg Boardman, Vice Provost for Student Affairs, and Shirley Everett, Senior Associate Vice Provost for Residential & Dining Enterprises, in the Stanford Daily on May 14th made it clear that Stanford was maintaining its stance to not renew the lease.

This means that as of September 1, 2012, the University will assume legal ownership of XOX. The protests from the student body have centered on the threat to XOX’s independence. However, the University statement says that while Stanford will have ownership of the property, they will only collect student funds for housing and pay for repairs: “Our expectation is that the alumni organization of Chi Theta Chi will take the next two to three years to demonstrate the sustained ability to manage house staffing, establish corporate self-governance, and create an effective partnership with the University.” In short, the attributes that members of XOX cite as central to its independence, the direct management of the house, will remain under their control. The deal that the University and the alumni board seem to have brokered is that the University will collect student funds for housing for one to three years, and in return will make all necessary repairs to the property. At that point, if the alumni board has demonstrated its ability to ensure that the historic building is cared for, as well as meeting health and safety standards and maintaining corporate self-governance, XOX will earn back the lease.

Those who worry that XOX’s lease is gone forever should be comforted by Stanford’s history of disciplinary action. Stanford effectively uses slap-on-the-wrist housing punishments when necessary (see Kappa Sigma, who will be reinstated in 1035 Campus Drive next year). It might be prudent of XOX to look at the benefits they gain from losing their lease. They effectively maintain their independence, and Stanford pays for the repairs to the historic property that XOX can neither afford nor implement. It’s the equivalent of a bailout: XOX has fallen so behind on maintenance that Stanford will step in and complete the necessary repairs for them (an irony that must surely grate on students who have been fined for room damages). Once repairs have been made, XOX can get their lease back. In the mean time, XOX must demonstrate that they can reconcile complete independence with the upkeep of a an historic property.

 

EDIT: Thanks to Anna, Sophi, and Evan for pointing out the conflation of self-op with ownership of the lease. XOX is a co-op, and the article has been edited to reflect this.

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60 Responses to “More to the Story: why Chi Theta Chi is losing its lease”

  1. Bluto says:

    http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/354aq1/

  2. humanist says:

    LONG LIVE XOX!! This is a travesty on Stanford students’ nascent ability to speak out against the Man, who is EXACTLY trying to repress the source that inadvertently and naturally elucidates the university’s subliminal hypocrisy. There is a need to express one’s individual grievances against such a system in a nonviolent, and totally hermetic, manner that I think is essential to the growth of Stanford University in general. CONSIDER THIS.

  3. Anna says:

    That is not what the term ‘self-op’ means in the Stanford context. Please do your research.

  4. Rachel says:

    Please elaborate.

  5. Evan says:

    “Sigma Chi has quarterly inspections to ensure that they are not in violation of health and safety codes, and that the house is being properly maintained.”

    Guess what? XOX has those inspections also. Despite your sensationalist descriptions, in this year’s kitchen inspections, XOX had fewer kitchen deficiencies than Sigma Chi (5 vs. 8). XOX also had fewer items violating fire code in this year’s fire inspections than Sigma Chi (8 vs. 11). This is all in spite of the fact that Sigma Chi is a SELF-OP, while XOX is a CO-OP (meaning Sigma Chi hires a cooking and cleaning staff for its house while XOX operates completely independently, a fact you failed to observe in your post). Somehow these supposedly negligent residents of XOX are still better at running their house than the hired staff at Sigma Chi, as well as many of the University-owned houses on campus.

    I’m not even going to start to point out the rest of the flaws in a post that doesn’t deserve be called “journalism”, I’ll leave that to others. I’ve been reading TUSB for a long time, and I’m disappointed that the blog would publish such a terribly misinformed and biased editorial masquerading as an investigative journalism.

  6. Sophi says:

    It’s good to hear the other side of this story, but it’s unfortunate that you chose to use a condescending tone toward the residents of the house. It’s belittling and alienating to a group of people who already feel belittled and alienated.

    A “self-op” refers to a house owned and operated by Stanford housing that is not a co-op. The sororities, Mars, and Haus Mitt would all be examples of self-ops.

  7. Anna says:

    http://www.stanford.edu/dept/rde/cgi-bin/drupal/housing/housing/row-small-group-houses

    “Self-operated houses, or self-ops, are undergraduate houses in which student residents (and non-resident eating associates), manage the operation of the house’s meal service and hire a house cook. The members jointly establish a board plan and coordinate house jobs and the budgeting of finances.”

    “Cooperative houses, or co-ops, are student-managed residences in which house members cooperate in the operation and governance of the house.”

    Chi Theta Chi is an INDEPENDENT cooperative house.

    This information/link is literally the first Google search for “Stanford self-op.”

  8. Thomas says:

    Maybe posting here is better.
    I’m interested in why you didn’t ask for any kind of interview from somebody from the house.
    And why all your pictures have something wrong with them. 1)that parking sign is not even there. 2) I have never seen that portrait this year so that picture must be really old. 3) What is wrong with having the fire extinguisher under the fire extinguisher sign? 4) that isn’t a broken window its for ventilation. All this visual evidence that can be so compelling for that people that get tired of reading the article is a sham.
    Who is this anonymous administrator and why did they talk to you?
    Why is this thing about appearance so damn important and why here?

  9. Matt says:

    That photo of a “broken window” isn’t of a broken window. It looks like a perfectly intact screen window that goes down to a basement room. And the fact that there’s a fan in the window probably means that it was intentionally built as a screen window to allow for ventilation. No problems there, move along.

  10. Laura McMartin says:

    Since 2001, the Chi Theta Chi Alumni Association has made capital improvements to the house totaling $1.2 million. Massive projects have been carried out including seismic retrofitting and ADA accessibility. This year we completed installation of new windows throughout the house and had the wooden floors redone in the dining room and lounge. Our financial solvency is evident.

    You admit that “the silence from University in response to student protest has been deafening” but at the same time claim “The University has no reason to more transparent about its stance on XOX.” Not sure how you can reconcile those too ideas. Greg Boardman and other officials have neglected to communicate with residents at all since early February. We came to him on Monday seeking an open dialogue, and he refused.

    Revoking the lease was in no way “the only option.” It was a harsh, insensitive decision that came out of the blue. If Greg Boardman and other officials were concerned about Chi Theta Chi in any way, the first move should have been outreach, not revocation. They should have expressed honest interest in developing a better relationship with the Alumni Board, instead of moving to take their property and punish residents for no wrongdoing.

    Please educate yourself about this issue. We are seeking what is just.

  11. The Shotgun who has been sic’ced says:

    “At this point in time, despite the lobbying of the alumni board, XOX has no credibility with the Stanford Administration.”

    First of all, a house can’t have credibility with anyone because it’s a building and not people, but beside that point, of course “XOX” doesn’t have credibility with the Stanford Administration. The Stanford Administration is not an entity that exists. Be specific about who we have no credibility with. Is it the administrators who are coming to the house tomorrow to have lunch with the residents? What does that even mean? I know TUSB doesn’t have copy editors, but seriously. Also, “house” is not capitalized.

    This is a hatchet job done either by someone with an agenda or someone who thinks it’s fun to play with journalistic fire. Is this going in your portfolio?

  12. Runkle says:

    ” Somehow these supposedly negligent residents of XOX are still better at running their house than the hired staff at Sigma Chi, as well as many of the University-owned houses on campus.”

    Actually, Sigma Chi does not have any University or other cleaning staff helping keep the house clean. They do have a chef, but keeping the house clean falls entirely on the residents, making it different than other “self-ops.”

  13. Hannah says:

    For your editing purposes, the thunderbolt that you refer to in this article was not ever parked in front of XOX while it was covered in post-its. The car was in front of Hamm (if you would like to write an article about their operations), but are you really pointing out 3 inch squares of paper on a vehicle that wasn’t even visible from Campus drive? The owner of this vehicle was obviously not responsible for this prank, and the decoration of vehicles, which are the personal properties of Stanford students, is completely unrelated to the residents’ of XOX ability to maintain a healthy and happy home.

  14. Zach says:

    “who is EXACTLY trying to repress the source that inadvertently and naturally elucidates the university’s subliminal hypocrisy”

    This (I think) is a good example of the disconnect between XOX+co. and the U. It seems to me (once ive waded through the buzzwords and overly complex sentence structrue. I’ve heard that makes your argument better) that the XOX+ folks are thinking about this in terms of personal liberty, freedom of speech, oppression, etc.

    All of those things are important, but I dont think that the University is thinking about it that way at all. They are thinking about mundane things like liability. And health code.

    As much as we Stanford students would like to think of everything as big philosophical questions, as conflicts between justice and oppression, etc, we cant forget the mundane. Jus because YOU are concerned with the big questions doesnt mean the U is engaging you at that level, in all situations. Sometimes it is just about those nittly gritty details that we’ve all fooled ourselves into believing we dont need to concern ourselves with.

  15. Anna says:

    1) You claim “In an environment where these occurrences are the norm,” … What? You write about several isolated incidents that DIDN’T EVEN RELATE TO THE LEASE BEING REVOKED and define this as “the norm?” I’m starting to think you need a dictionary.

    2) “it is clear how XOX could neglect to … communicate appropriately with the University.” Have you not seen the amount of communication taking place from XOX to the administration? I believe that this communication is the REASON you have enough information to write this article in the first place. XOX regularly communicates to the administration; have you considered that the administration may be too busy with other problems to respond to XOX in a timely manner? Administration, please correct me if I’m wrong.

    3) “They don’t have the money to fix the problem.” Please, anonymous administration source, some proof? We would hate to make claims we couldn’t support.

    4) “Our source described the lengths that XOX would have to go. First, XOX would need a famous alumni to sponsor their bid to the University. That “angel” would need to have responsible backers, wealthy alumni involved in the community” So… The source is saying the only way to get the attention of the administration is with money and famous people? I’m sure other administration officials would have something different to say about this without the facade of anonymity to hide them.

    5) Appearance of the house. Complaints of broken glass, wine bottles, trash… If this is the case, it is taken grossly out of context. Have you ever been to ANY row house after a party? Mess occasionally happens, whether the house is University-owned or not. It gets PROMPTLY cleaned up here.

    I am LIVID at your disregard for fact, evidence, definitions, and truth in the name of journalism. Do your research, don’t rely on one-sided sources, and don’t make hefty assumptions about topics you clearly know little about.

  16. Evan says:

    @Runkle – if that’s the case I stand corrected. Still doesn’t explain why the author of this post is pointing to Sigma Chi as everything XOX should be. XOX scored better than Sigma Chi in both kitchen and fire inspections this year, quantitative data that says a lot more than the sweeping generalizations offered by the author of this post. I would challenge anyone to “inspect” a row house (Sigma Chi included) the way XOX is being scrutinized.

    Additionally, Sigma Chi is a fraternity house, and therefore does not allow students to draw into the house. For students (especially female) seeking an independent house with more freedom and responsibility, XOX is the only option. Because Sigma Chi is not open to most students, XOX is the only truly independent house left on campus. For this reason and because Sigma Chi is less up-to-code than XOX, pointing to Sigma Chi as a model of a “functional” independent house is highly problematic.

  17. Lauren says:

    “Tours of Stanford’s historic buildings go by XOX, and the display the house puts on for visitors does not fall in line with what Stanford’s image.”

    Why does every house have to be immaculately manicured to look like Mother Stanford? We live in a co-op because we seek reprieve from the sterility of Stanford dorms, and we defend the right not to adhere to this “image.”

    Also, this is not a sentence.

  18. Rachel says:

    Hannah: That incidence was brought up to illustrate the tension between XOX and the University (the anecdote came from a University official discussing XOX), not as a reason the lease was revoked.

  19. Rachel says:

    The Shotgun: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/metonymy

  20. Rachel says:

    Laura: Thank you for your informative comment!

    Your information about XOX’s spending on house improvements is extremely interesting. My understanding of the University’s standpoint is that XOX does not have either the funding or interest necessary to enact required repairs. If XOX does have financial solvency, I believe the best way to convey this to the University is via a heavy hitting alumni champion.

    When saying that the University has no reason to be more transparent, I mean that they have no practical reason. More transparency is important to the student body, but the University has little incentive to be more transparent if it will fuel student body and alumni protest. Thus, the deafening silence. Trying to understand why the University has released so little information is by no means an exoneration of this strategy. I also agree that revoking the lease was not the only option. My point was that even a negative perception of XOX does not translate into a positive perception of the University in this situation, which further explains the University’s silence on the issue.

  21. Rachel says:

    Matt: Although it is hard to tell from the picture, the glass is in fact missing from the window.

  22. Rachel says:

    Anna:
    1) These incidents were brought up to illustrate the tension between XOX and the University. Bottles, broken furniture, and trash were common (after any row houses after a party, as you point out) and not cleaned up when University administrators came to the house. At the point where it’s not fixed when administrators are visiting, I think it’s fair to call it the norm.
    2) I don’t argue the volume of communication between XOX and the University, merely its effectiveness.
    3) Laura made an interesting point about this already. If XOX has financial solvency, then it is a matter of University perception that XOX is unwilling/unable to repair and maintain the house.
    4) No doubt.
    5) See 1. I would also like to clarify that the points about appearance were made to highlight tension between the University and XOX, not as a reason the lease was revoked.

  23. Rachel says:

    Evan: Sigma Chi was cited only as an example of a house where the property was better maintained, not one that scored better in terms of health and safety codes.

  24. Helen Helfand says:

    Hey Rachel, not to belabor the window point but it is a sliding window (to the side) that happened to be open for ventilation. Not broken. Nothing wrong with that.

  25. Rachel says:

    Thomas: You’re assuming I didn’t try to interview residents of XOX. I would absolutely love to do so for a follow up post. The pictures are all from last year, arguably when the conflict between XOX and the University escalated. The fire extinguisher in the third picture is in fact laying on top of the piano, along with a scooter. And the window, although it is hard to tell from the picture, is in fact completely missing glass. Appearances are important, not because they directly relate to the lease, but because they were/are a source of tension between XOX and the University.

  26. Rachel says:

    Helen: Thanks for your comment. The picture was considered evidence of a broken window by Stanford, so if it was not broken, then this is much more problematic.

  27. Matt says:

    Rachel: Yes, I know there is no glass in that window. That’s because there isn’t supposed to be glass. It’s a ventilation window to a basement room, so it has a screen over it. Therefore, it is not a “broken window” and the glass isn’t missing.

  28. Ivan DeGroote says:

    Dear Rachel,

    I’m sorry you’ve been unfairly brought into this issue as a middlewoman between an aggrieved administrator and the Stanford community. I can only conclude that most of the research for this article was provided to you by someone else, as you seem to be both familiar with intimate details of items that would irk an adult Stanford employee yet ignorant of many basic elements to this conflict.

    You know of a yellow car covered in penis post-it notes, a portrait stolen from Meyer Library, and a No Parking sign that has not been up for months now. Yet you did not know the difference between a co-op, a self-op, and an independently operated house until after posting this article. You were unaware that, as my friend Evan Glitterman noted above, we at Chi Theta Chi are subject to the same quarterly kitchen inspections as Sigma Chi and all other row house kitchens (much less that we got better results). You are unaware of the over $1 million that has been recently invested in the house, yet you cite Olympic gold medal winners having lived in the house – from an historic-minded architectural assessment whose recommended window replacements have been made this past year at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    We are quite aware that our complaints have fallen on deaf ears; that’s why we continue to shout them louder. It is also one of our chief complaints as residents of the house, which you would know if you had spoken to any of us. I write this response under my full name, with all my pride, yet the person who provided you with most of your source material chose not to discuss openly but rather hide behind you. That is the lack of honest communication that we as residents have been so upset by.

    I wish you the best of luck weathering the ire you have drawn from my friends, and will do my best to assure they do not act harshly. However this administrator, for whom you must trust and care for deeply enough to make so many enemies for, owes both you and the residents of Chi Theta Chi an apology for how they have acted.

  29. Grammar Police says:

    Sorry to be nitpicky here, but this particular mistake is a pet peeve of mine: the correct phrase is “an historic,” not “a historic.”

    “…thus considered a historic property.”
    “…to maintain a historical property.”
    “…required for a historic property.”
    “…the upkeep of a historic property.”

  30. Anna Shtengelova says:

    Rachel,

    Your response to Laura:
    “If XOX does have financial solvency, I believe the best way to convey this to the University is via a heavy hitting alumni champion.” (I will assume “heavy hitting alumni champion” is a euphemism for “person who donates a lot of money”) This statement is probably the most absurd and problematic of all your assertions and claims. You’re saying that if XOX has enough financial standing to repair our house, we should prove this by making a hefty donation to the Stanford administration (or finding a pretty face to do it for us). Can’t you see the contradiction this creates with what you’re arguing for when you say XOX should take responsibility for ourselves? How is throwing the administration a wad of cash that we could otherwise use to improve our home going to do us any good? I highly doubt that administration officials (that is, those with enough tact to not discuss such a sensitive legal and financial issue with you) share your view on donations.

    Your response to Matt:
    As Matt and Thomas pointed out, the glass is missing because that window is used for ventilation. It has a screen/netting on it. You can EASILY see that this is used for ventilation by clicking the zoomed-in image.

    Your response to Evan:
    You say Sigma Chi is a property that’s “better maintained,” but “not one that scored better in terms of health and safety codes” … So do you just mean it’s prettier?

    In addition: ALL issues that you listed above, including broken windows, inappropriate signs, Meyer’s portrait, etc. had been rectified a fair amount of time BEFORE the lease was revoked (even though they were not cited as reasons for revoking the lease). This means that XOX was responsive and took initiative to rectify issues within its home and community in a timely manner, even issues that were not official violations of the health and safety code according to county inspections. These corrections took place before there was even any threat of the lease being revoked. I would like to hear an explanation of how you believe this shows the administration that “XOX is unwilling/unable to repair and maintain the house.”

    I do not doubt that you are trying to do the right thing in providing interesting, radical, and controversial content for people to read. Unfortunately, both you and your source appear to be relying primarily on information that is either incomplete, outdated, or inaccurate.

  31. Hi says:

    This a terrible article. I’m ashamed this comes from a fellow Stanford student.

  32. The Shotgun who has been sic’ced says:

    Rachel,

    I know what metonymy is. They didn’t give me an English degree for nothing. You’re writing a journalism article, not poetry. Metonymy is also an easy way to categorize people and then assign those people an irrational groupthink for the purpose of sensationalizing your writing. It can obfuscate clarity, which you are supposed to be seeking when writing journalism. While you are far from the first person to do this, you are still doing it, and it does make your writing look unprofessional. Am I nitpicking? Yes I am nitpicking. You know what I consider nitpicking? Relaying stories about a sign or Post-it notes on a car. When you write an antagonistic article, you leave any and all of your writing open to criticism.

    Also, if, as you claim, “the points about appearance were made to highlight tension between the University and XOX, not as a reason the lease was revoked,” then maybe you shouldn’t title your article “More to the Story: why Chi Theta Chi is losing its lease”

  33. Hannah says:

    Rachel,
    I will say again, the vehicle was in no way visibly affiliated with XOX. The fact that it is being used to supposedly highlight tension between administration and XOX is completely invalid. Who is this “University Official” that came to the conclusion that this was an act of a resident of XOX, or that it was done in an act of disrespect to the University? And after making that ridiculous assumption, how was it decided that this in any way affected the residents` ability to maintain a HOUSE?

    As for “five hundred” visitors to Stanford getting a glimpse into “that particular side of student life”, what were you referring to? Humor? Fun?
    Gee, I wouldn`t want anyone visiting Stanford to see THAT.

  34. Bill O’Reilly says:

    Dear Rachel,

    If you’re looking for some employment after school, I was really impressed by your investigative journalism. We’d love to have you over at Fox News. My people should be in touch soon.

    Sincerely,

    Bill O’Reilly

  35. Rachel says:

    The Shotgun: I welcome the criticism of the post, and I think it’s important to critique how language is used. I maintain that use of metonymy in a post like this is useful. No one assumes I’m referring to the house itself when I refer to XOX, but it saves the trouble of saying “XOX residents and members of the alumni board currently in contact with members of the Stanford Administration who are involved in the issue of XOX’s lease.” I would argue that such writing does far more to “obfuscate clarity.”

  36. Rachel says:

    Ivan: Thank you for your considerate response. I wrote this article to demonstrate that the reasons XOX is losing its lease go beyond safety code violations or a lapse in corporate status. I don’t think any resident of XOX or the alumni board would argue this, because XOX has done an exemplary job in rectifying these issues. However, it is not the case that Stanford is failing to renew the lease merely because the administration has a vendetta against the independent spirit XOX embodies.

    I hope that I have not made enemies by writing this article, because it was not intended to be an attack on XOX, but instead an attempt to bridge the disconnect between the concerns of the two parties. Up until this point, the University has been unwilling to discuss the reasons behind the termination of the lease (beyond health and safety code violations and a lapse in corporate status, issues easily rectified and not specific to XOX). What I have found indicates that there is a huge problem with maintenance of the historical XOX property, combined with a general feeling within the University that XOX is disrespectful. The latter, while not directly pertinent to the lease, certainly is important to the discussion because it sheds light on the communication issues apparent in this debate.

    It is interesting that none of the commenters so far have sought to address the neglect of the property beyond the health and safety violations (which I have considered a separate issue). You scratch the surface in your response, but primarily to tell me that I was unaware of quarterly kitchen inspections and recent investments made in the house. The kitchen inspections are not the issue I’m addressing, I’m referring to inspections that address the property as a whole and that would lead to all necessary repairs. If these inspections have been made, then the response has not been sufficient, as there are still hundreds of thousands dollars (if not more) of repairs that still need to be made. And yes, I am aware of the recent repairs made to the house and discussed them in my post. The fact remains that despite the grand sum invested, there is still a great deal of damage that must be dealt with in order to maintain this historic property. There are many questions here, all of which require a solid answer from XOX: what circumstances led to the property sustaining this degree of damage? Is XOX willing and able to enact all necessary repairs? What will XOX do in the future to ensure that the property is maintained above the current levels?

    I believe that if XOX can provide answer to these questions to the administration, then XOX will have be able to retain the lease/get the lease back in the minimum amount of time.

  37. Lauren says:

    You seem to be having difficulty finishing sentences.

  38. Rachel says:

    Anna: You’ve misinterpreted my point about a heavy hitting alumni. I’m not saying that a donation to Stanford is required (in fact, I think that would be pointless). But I d think that Stanford needs confirmation that XOX realizes that it has not maintained the property appropriately and that it now has the means and organization, as well as the will, to do so. The easiest way to do this would be via a well respected alumni who will put their name on the project and thus assure the administration that their trust is not misplaced if they choose to renew the lease.

    When I’m referring to maintenance, I’m not just referring to health and safety codes, I’m referring to the upkeep of an historical property. This means that the house itself will need a great deal of upkeep and that repairs must be conducted in a certain way. In old houses, not only is there the additional risk of things like wood needing to be replaced, it must also be replaced in a way that respects the designation of the house as an historical property. These are not the kinds of things that will show up during a kitchen safety investigation, but Stanford still takes them very seriously.

    The issues such as broken windows, the stolen portrait, etc occurred last year. While it is possible that Stanford made the decision not to renew the lease based solely on issues that happened this year, it’s more likely that the decision was made based on years of interactions between XOX and the University. In this post, I did my best to point out recent conflicts that spoke to the disconnect between the two parties as well as describing an overarching issue of caring for the property. None of this seems radical or controversial (at least so far, no one has denied that these incidents took place or that property maintenance has been an issue). Instead, I am trying to make controversy surrounding the lease more transparent so that future discussions will be more productive and address issues that previously hadn’t been a part of the conversation despite their importance.

  39. Ivan DeGroote says:

    Dear Rachel,

    It is you who are claiming that the house has endured a great deal of damage, and without any strong evidence. I suggest you ask your informant at the Heritage Services center to make their case publicly, as you personally have no credibility for the claims you are trying to make.

    The reason no one has addressed the neglect of the property beyond health and safety violations is because it is a non-issue for those involved in actual discussion over the lease. It has not been cited by the Vice Provost, Residential and Dining Enterprises, or Residential Education as a reason to take revoke the lease (to my knowledge as a current resident). As such, it’s not something residents feel we need to respond to. Your informant certainly believes that non-safety related neglect is an issue, but if they care to make that part of the discussion they should do so publicly and through proper discussion.

  40. Rachel says:

    Ivan: It’s interesting that you see this post as some sort of puppet-mastering by the Stanford administration. As I have said before, I do not believe that the reasons cited by the Vice Provost, Residential and Dining Enterprises, or Residential Education have been sufficient to justify Stanford’s decision not to renew the lease. You do not either. My research indicates that one of the major problems may be the damage to the property, which is corroborated by the need for projects such as the window replacement last year and the over $1 million invested in maintaining the house. I also discussed in my original post reasons why the administration might shy away from citing this as a reason to not renew the lease. If you need further indication that property damage is an issue, look no further than Greg Boardman and Shirley Everett’s statement: “The University has exercised its option not to renew the current lease for the house, effective September 1, 2012, at which time the University will have legal ownership of the house, collect student funds for housing, and pay for repairs.”

    In short, the University statement says that Stanford, despite holding the lease, will restrict its actions to collecting student housing funds and making repairs. It makes sense, then, that Stanford’s goal in not renewing the lease is to make those repairs, not to maliciously target XOX. Whether the property damage is substantial beyond normal wear and tear in an old and therefore more fragile house is something that should be being discussed. Whether the damage that occurred justifies the action Stanford took is another important issue. I have no place in this discussion beyond my role as Stanford student. But from what I have seen, it will be up to XOX to direct the conversation to these topics, because the University has demonstrated that it prefers to cite other issues in an attempt to minimize conflict and student protest. I hope, that instead of seeing this post as an attack on XOX, it is taken as encouragement to confront issues that might be playing a larger role than previously realized.

  41. Anna Shtengelova says:

    Are either you or your source an expert on historical properties at Stanford? In your response to me re: maintenance of historical properties, it sounds like the assertions you are making should be left up to expert opinion. If historical upkeep of the property is the issue, it should have been clearly cited as such in the termination of our lease. “Neglect” and “aging” of the property are not the same thing.

  42. Thomas says:

    Hey Rachel,

    You make a very interesting point at the end there. There have been a lot of closed door meetings between the members of the Alumni Board and representatives from the administration. I have not attended any of these meetings, however, Greg Boardman, Deborah Goulder and a few others will be joining residents for lunch tomorrow and we will all have an opportunity to speak with them. This will be the third opportunity that I know of for residents to speak with administrators (second with Deborah and Greg, not counting our planned conversation monday morning that Greg shied away from). This question of intention and true reasons for the revocation of the lease will be important issues to bring up, but hopefully they will be tired issues for the administrators who have been in meetings with the Alumni Board.

  43. Matthew Alexander says:

    “…window replacement last year and the over $1 million invested in maintaining the house” does not corroborate “damage to the property.” It is expected to have to invest in your house–we have done that here at XOX, and we have shown in recent years that we have the financial solvency to do so.

    You use the Boardman/Everett statement as “further indication that property damage is an issue,” but you are misreading the statement. The fact that the University plans to “collect student funds for housing, and pay for repairs” is included not because property damage is an issue; that phrase is included in the statement because XOX is a unique co-op in that we currently pay for our own repairs, in addition to collecting rent directly from residents. Sigma Chi is the only other house on campus that pays for its own repairs–the fact that the University plans to “pay for repairs” is notable only because of the unique situation currently in place at XOX (we have our own student Fix-It manager) and the fact that the University plans to change who pays for the repairs, not because of supposed property damage.

    “They effectively maintain their independence, and Stanford pays for the repairs to the historic property that XOX can neither afford nor implement. It’s the equivalent of a bailout: XOX has fallen so behind on maintenance that Stanford will step in and complete the necessary repairs for them (an irony that must surely grate on students who have been fined for room damages).”
    What research do you have that specifically shows that XOX can’t afford repairs and doesn’t have the the capability to implement them? I’d say the evidence points to the opposite: we’ve spent over $1.2 million in the last decade on major home improvements, not to mention the many everyday repairs we’ve made that cost less than thousands of dollars at a time. We have documentation that proves that we have actively and responsibly been making repairs as needed, and these documents were all submitted to Boardman, et al, some time ago.
    What information do you have that suggests that Stanford plans to eat the cost for all repairs they make on the house? It can’t be as simple as you make it out to be.
    Last, in your role as a Stanford student who claims to have done lots of research about supposed damage to the house, specifically what damage are you talking about?

  44. The Hammer says:

    FYI, the eyes of J. Henry Meyer were “blacked out” with two individual chocolate chips on the pupils, hardly something requiring the piece to be heavily “restored”.

  45. Lee Altenberg, Ph.D. ’85 says:

    The problem with the article journalistically is that it mushes together the sources so we are not clear on who is saying what: which words are those of “administrator X”, what are allegations and what are verified facts, who are the sources of other allegations, what are Rachel’s inferences about the situation, and what is Rachel advocating. We’re all on a learning curve in this crisis, but that I think is what Rachel needs to work on. When I originally read the article, it appeared that an administrator was giving inside information that the work needed to maintain the historic house at the level it deserved would be so large that only the Stanford general account could afford it. But this now appears to have been Rachel’s own inference. We’re absolutely starved for information about the administration’s decision-making process. Rachel could do a great service by detailing the exact content of what “administrator X” wanted her to know, separately from Rachel’s interpretations of this information.

  46. Rachel says:

    Lee: Thanks for your comment, I’ll do my best to detail precisely what the my sources and inferences are (separate from the sources I have linked to). All the quotes, or any information cited from a source within the administration, are from “administrator X.” The entirety of the second paragraph, describing repairs that need to be made to XOX, also comes from conversations with “administrator X.” The discussion of what type of property can be handled without university interference is my own inference based on existing examples (I cite Sigma Chi and the Thorsen House). The last two paragraphs are solely my interpretations of the situation, based primarily on the May 14th statement by the University, although certainly influenced by my understanding of the situation as shaped by reporting on the issue and my interaction with the administration. I hope that clarifies the sources of information in the post, and please let me know if there is anything else confusing or unclear.

  47. Laura says:

    Hear, hear Mathew! And Lee!

    “My research indicates that one of the major problems may be the damage to the property, which is corroborated by the need for projects such as the window replacement last year and the over $1 million invested in maintaining the house.”

    Your “research” has not brought to light any structural damages at all, let alone ones that would threaten Chi Theta Chi’s historical significance (granted for its embodiment of Spanish-Eclectic style), or its lease agreement. Money invested in the house has gone to improvements, some of which have been required with the changing of the law. For example, a ramp was added (see the Alvarado side of the house) to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Regardless, damage and maintenance of historical significance are not reasons administrators involved in the negotiation process have cited as grounds for revocation, and you shouldn’t be claiming them as such.

    You excuse yourself from our objections, saying the incidents you cite were to “illustrate the tension between XOX and the University.” If that was your intent, you shouldn’t have titled your article: “More to the Story: why Chi Theta Chi is losing its lease.” You should have gone with something more like “Misinformed interpretation of Chi Theta Chi negotiations plus some obscure, irrelevant, and out-dated tidbits that might offend you if you lack a sense of humor.”

  48. Rachel says:

    Matthew: Perhaps something that I should have made more clear in the original post is that much repair would not be necessary if the house was properly maintained, according to the administrator I spoke to. The damage to the house described to me was: “Floors and woodwork will need to be replaced or restored, bathrooms updated, and electrics rewired.”

    However, I think this is missing the point of the article. It is possible that I’m reading more into the Boardman/Everett statement than is warranted. And it is also possible that my source within the administration is mistaken about the state of the house. And it is entirely possible that if the house is not in pristine condition now, the XOX alumni board could raise the money to make it so. However, if that is the case, the fact remains that this is an issue XOX should be taking seriously. The purpose of this article was not to pass judgement on the state of the house, but to argue that it is key for XOX to convince Stanford that it can care for an historic property. If the administration has doubts about the ability/willingness of XOX to maintain the house (however unwarranted they may or may not be) it significantly decreases the chances of XOX retaining/getting back the lease.

  49. Grad Student says:

    In response to Grammar Police:

    The top ranked page in a Google search states that both “a historic” and “an historic” are both correct and differential usage is due to regional differences.

    According to that page, “a historic” is used 70% of the time, whereas as “an historic” is used 30% of the time.

  50. Rachel says:

    Laura: I think we agree more than you recognize. I know that damage/maintenance issues were not cited by the administration in the decision not to renew the lease. In my response to Ivan, I said: “I wrote this article to demonstrate that the reasons XOX is losing its lease go beyond safety code violations or a lapse in corporate status. I don’t think any resident of XOX or the alumni board would argue this, because XOX has done an exemplary job in rectifying these issues. However, it is not the case that Stanford is failing to renew the lease merely because the administration has a vendetta against the independent spirit XOX embodies.” I would argue that focusing on these issues is unproductive when there are clearly other factors at play. I sympathize highly with the lack of transparency from the University, and what I have found indicates that the University considers damage/maintenance to be an issue, despite their silence on the topic.

    I have also tried to clarify the reasons for including the conflicts between the University and XOX. The descriptions of the incidents included in the article were not done so to paint XOX in a negative light. As you point out, most Stanford students aren’t going to be offended by a sign or a car covered in Post-its (I realize that the car was only tenuously linked to XOX, bear with me). Instead, I wanted to highlight the disconnect between the administration and the students and alumni of XOX. What XOX residents, and most students at Stanford, see as independence and character can have significant effects on how XOX is perceived by the administration.

  51. Bob Kanefsky says:

    If we’re going to worry about correct use of English in this article (rather than discussing whether it’s fair and balanced and the issues behind it), how about this: while “a historic” is perfectly correct in American English, “an alumni” is definitely not. It should either be “some alumni” (if they meant more than one, which would be an important difference, but they used the singular “angel”) or more likely, “an alumnus or alumna”. Apparently they not only let people graduate from a major university without knowing that “alumni” and “criteria” are plurals, they even let them run one, if the quote is accurate.

    Also, it’s “its lease”, like “his”, “hers”, “theirs”, and “ours”, not “her’s”, “their’s”, and “our’s”.

  52. Laura says:

    No amount of backtracking and rewording in the comments section can change the falsities and demeaning nature of your article or excuse your obvious ignorance about this issue. Why you felt entitled to write this, and why you continue to defend such garbage, is beyond me.

  53. Darth Maul says:

    Everyone really just needs to shut the f*ck up and chill out. It’s a house. The University is taking it back. Deal with it you crying little b****es. There are a lot more important things to worry about.

  54. Lee Altenberg, Ph.D. ’85 says:

    Darth Maul labors under the common misconception that “The University is taking it back”. Chi Theta Chi OWNS its house; it is only leasing the land. Stanford did not build the house, and Stanford has never owned the house. In point of fact, it was built by a 21 year old student who founded a fraternity, got the lease from Leland Stanford himself, got a loan based on that lease, and hired a contractor to build the house. The house has never in its 120 year old history been Stanford’s to “take back”. It has always been owned by its alumni. Stanford inserted into the lease some 40 years ago the clause that it could take ownership of the house by terminating the lease any time it wished. The administration resisted the temptation for 40 years until now.

    It is understandable that Darth Maul would think that the University was only “taking it back” from some “crying little bitches”. There seems to be a “reality distortion field” on campus where everyone subconsciously sees students in the archetype of children, and administrators in the archetype of parents. Children, after all, don’t really own their property, their parents do. The Student Affairs administration is treating XOX like “the bad child” and is punishing it by taking away ownership of its house. Darth Maul’s use of childlike terms for adults defending the ownership of their property illustrates perfectly the operation of this “reality distortion field” at Stanford.

    The essential question to be asking is: When is it morally acceptable for Stanford to take property away from its rightful owners? Are these conditions met in this situation? For those of us outside the pull of the “reality distortion field”, it would be morally unacceptable to seize alumni property except in the case of gross malfeasance. Student Affairs’ February takeover letter tries to paint XOX management as malfeasance, but every charge falls apart under the weight of the facts. XOX is not perfect of course, but neither is Housing or ResEd, yet Student Affairs is using any flaws it can find as justification for seizing ownership of XOX’s $3.5 million house and its $200,000 annual income stream. That is the gross injustice in this situation.

  55. Yay Darth Maul says:

    Darth Maul’s comment is the most appropriate for this entire shit show. Also, stop saying “fuck the man” because you’re all capitalists. You all go to Stanford. Drop out if you hate it here.

  56. what?? says:

    Anyone who has gotten this far in reading the comment thread and claims “There are a lot more important things to worry about” is a massive hypocrite.

    Also. isn’t the reason moderation and comment approval exist on this forum so unproductive language and inappropriate comments get moderated out?

  57. Luke Wigren says:

    Contrary to what this writer and shamefully nontransparent “Administrator X” would have you believe, the only historical mistreatment we currently have is not that of XOX residents towards their home, but of ResEd, Student Affairs, President Hennessy, and the Board of Trustees towards Stanford’s mission.

    Our school was created for Cooperativists, NOT Capitalists!

    “Yay darth maul” it should be you considering dropping out, because it is YOU, and others like YOU, who are destroying the legacy of this pioneering, weird university!

    XOX is on the right track, however the majority of the university, sadly, is not.

  58. Appalled says:

    It is appalling to me that the person writing this article did so without even understanding the distinction between a self-op, co-op, and independent house. This indicates to me that her “facts” are gathered secondhand and placed grossly out of context.

    Rachel, how can you possibly think you have the credibility to claim to a group of 35 people currently living in the house that their ownership of their house is no longer valid? Have you even set foot inside XOX?

    The writing style is also convoluted and misleading. I was surprised to see writing of this low caliber posted on TUSB.

  59. Restored says:

    Restoration of a historical home = ??
    If it is painting over the art,work weeks and years of time layered over each other … then I beg people to consider that homes have souls! You can paint over the grime and beauty but that alone would not be the end of xox. Add atop that a 2 year ‘probation/watch dog period’ and the culture (a perennial regenerating force that is passes peacefully down through time) —
    == loss of house…
    a theft of sad deleterious affects to a campus-wide culture which xox has always been a wonderfully present part of. as a former resident i’m deeply grateful to the time i had in xox. this aggression hurts

  60. Snoopy says:

    The University are a bunch of cowards.

    “Counter to what students may think, outcry from the student body over XOX’s lease mostly falls on deaf ears, and the silence from University in response to student protest has been deafening. The University has no reason to (be) more transparent about its stance on XOX. Any response is fuel for student and alumni protest, and no reading of the situation is particularly favorable towards the University”

    Yeah, try us. I beg you. Do you think we can’t handle the truth? Do you? We were born in truth. We bathe in truth. We cook in pots caked with years of fact and candidness. Our home is a dungeon of verity, a pockmark of reality on Stanford’s venerable, but wholly vacuous veneer. Live your lies, give your degrees, and degrade all that is holy in your swively chaired offices – but one day know that the reckoning will come, and then all those students you thought you’d prepared so well for the real world will turn out to be just a bunch of self-serving megalomaniacal pukes. have mercy on your individualistic, corporatized souls

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