by Peter McDonald ’11, Chi Theta Chi resident 2009-2011
The walls of Chi Theta Chi are thin, very thin, as are the floors. Solitude comes at a premium, though the space is still suitable for studying. The thinness of the walls has significant effect on house life, though. They are a constant annoyance for the more gossip-minded residents because there is a significant chance that whomever they’re talking about, might actually hear them, even if they’re on the second floor (the presence of gossip, by the way, indicates the presence of a healthy, functioning community, because it means people actually care about what other people do). The walls and floors also pose a problem whenever someone decides to blast their music, a lesson I learned numerous times throughout the years. This is not a soundproof house by any means. The audible manifestations of joy and passion that fill it spill out into the hallways frequently. The courtyard is almost a whispering gallery.
In the summer of 2010, my computer started booting for eternity. For the following year, my second in Chi Theta Chi, without the money or time to spend fixing it, I had to rely on the computers in the cluster in the basement. Like all parts of XƟX, the cluster had its own personality, one that stands in stark contrast to the rest of the residences on campus. The paint job is light blue. The ceiling above the cluster is mostly drywall. A knock on it produces a hollow sound. It did have a couch, which became my bed for about three to four nights each week, when I didn’t feel like making the two-flight trek back to my assigned room. One would not think that a person could become attached to a computer cluster, but by the end of just two quarters, attached I became. I spent so much time there that it was a running joke among the residents that I lived in the cluster. Sound travels downward as easily as it does any other direction; any loud noises from the dining hall or the foyer will make their way into the cluster.
I have heard that Stanford is in the midst of a mental health crisis, a crisis motivated by the “Stanford duck syndrome.” We all tell each other that we are not alone, and then we spend almost all of our times away from each other, either physically or with an electronic shield. I remember the lounges of my residences freshman and sophomore year. They were almost always empty. After the first weeks of fall quarter at the max, one feels foolish for wanting to bond with one’s housemates, and so our struggles continue underneath the surface, the metal doors become the mirroring pond, with the reinforced walls, at the expense of learning about each other and growing together, all to preserve the essentialist veneer, the veneer that plagues the Ivy League, the veneer we all buy into at our own cost, the belief that “those kinds of things,” the kinds of things we don’t want to but need to talk about, just don’t happen at Stanford. At Chi Theta Chi, the common areas are almost never empty. We must carry out our unpleasant business with at least some effort. (more…)