Widgets Magazine

East Asian theme house to turn to ed focus

Next year, Treat House, known as the East Asian Studies Theme (EAST) house, will discontinue its current academic-cultural focus and become the Education and Society Theme house. It has served as a hub for focus on East Asian studies since 1982.

According to Residential Education (ResEd), the new theme will connect undergraduate students with volunteer student organizations, faculty members and the School of Education.

The 63-resident East Asian Studies Theme house on west campus is set to switch focuses to “Education and Society” next year. Residential Education cited the School of Education’s new minor as evidence of increasing student demand. (MASARU OKA/Staff Photographer)

In a statement announcing the change, ResEd cited the School of Education’s new minor degree offering as evidence of a growing interest in education among undergraduates.

“The Education House at Stanford envisions a living learning space that serves students as a hub of activity around student engagement in education,” according to ResEd.

The resident fellows in the 63-person house, education professors Christine Min Wotipka and Anthony Lising Antonio, echoed that interest in education has been on the rise, both academically and through local tutoring, counseling and test preparation.

“In all of that activity, we see an opportunity to create a living-learning space to connect these activities and students together and foster a community for deeper engagement and opportunistic connection,” the RFs wrote in a joint e-mail to The Daily.

ResEd spokespeople were not available for comment.

The change has been met with some opposition by several house alumni.

Todd Nelling ’08, who lived in EAST during his sophomore and senior years, wrote in an e-mail to The Daily that “surely there are other [non-theme] dorms in less demand…why does it need to be EAST?”

Russell Chou ’12, the residential computer consultant at EAST and the president of the anime and origami clubs at Stanford, said EAST had only three priority residents this year, which he said may have influenced the move to instate the education theme.

A letter signed by 41 EAST alumni was nostalgic, expressing hope that EAST will be remembered not only as a center for debate and discussion about East Asia, but also as a vibrant and close-knit community that drew students from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines.

“The language tables at dinners, the student-led seminars, the trips to Chinatown and Japantown, the week-long EASTfest and the other theme-related events…created a community unified by a common interest,” read the letter.

Zack Wood ’07, a former academic theme advisor in EAST, suggested a number of alternative organizations for current students interested in East Asian studies, including the Asian American Activities Center, the Center for East Asian Studies and Okada, an ethnic theme house.

  • Reader

    That sucks, but I agree that the low number of priority students put the nail in the coffin for EAST. It’s really difficult to carry out activities if you have a low amount of people to hold them.

  • Todd

    I like how my quote is juxtaposed against one that implies that I’m completely wrong. My senior year, about half the dorm was either priority or preassigned. The house seminars barely fit in the lounge. Moreover, the dorm was drawing in the 700s. That is not a dorm that’s having trouble finding residents, and I find it difficult to believe that in the 2 years since, things changed that dramatically.

    The RF quote kills me. What they describe is what was already there, though I can see how they might have missed it, as I saw them around the house very infrequently my senior year. The one thing EAST didn’t have much of either year I lived there was RF involvement (though it was better my sophomore year, under the previous RFs, who did host a couple of events throughout the year). Makes me wonder whether part of the reason for the change was that no one in the East Asian studies dept was willing to take over after the old RFs left.

  • Alicia

    In response to the low number of priority students for EAST the last year, that is the figure for only one year. When I was on staff in 2005-2006, there were many times more priority residents than that (and as Todd indicated, this was true for several years). Not only that, priority residents were not the only ones involved in the house’s East Asian activities. One year of bad numbers could be the result of an administrative fluke, such as not getting out the applications in time, or not spreading the word that the applications were available. As you can see from the response from previous residents, EAST House has a strong community and is well-loved. One or two years of mismanagement or simple forgetfulness is hardly a “nail in the coffin.”

    What I’m curious about was whether the residents and staff of EAST House were consulted or even told about this change. We just feel like we had the rug pulled out from under us. ResEd is tearing down our house without even the courtesy of telling us the day before. I truly enjoyed my year at EAST House. I have some very fond memories and it saddens me to think that the community we built is being demolished because a few people didn’t understand what we had and thought something else would be more suitable.

    The community at EAST House was special, and was also completely distinct from Okada. The Center for East Asian Studies is hardly a substitute for the many things that EAST House was to all of us.

  • Zack Wood

    I’m Zack Wood and I’m quoted at the end of the article. None of the places I mentioned here can really replace EAST, as I stated in the interview. The change in theme is a loss to the campus and East Asian Studies community, and I didn’t mean to suggest that EAST could be made up for by these great but vastly different places and organizations.

    But I wish good luck to the new staff and theme.

  • Eric

    As an underclassman, I was told that EAST House had an unusually high rate of returning residents.. and sure enough, I ended up as one of those who – for one reason or another – lived in EAST for three years. In my experience, the great thing about EAST was its strong sense of community, both within a year and from year to year. In retrospect, this was probably the result of some combination of the following:
    1) The East Asian theme is less of a specific field and more of a set of perspectives. This allows a wide range of student interests to be gathered under one roof and still be connected by a common East Asian thread. Given the dynamics of East Asia itself, the theme lends itself to discussion on topics ranging from arts to politics.
    2) EAST House often has a sizable population of students either outbound to or inbound from the Stanford Overseas Centers in Kyoto and Beijing. Needless to say, this brings in much excitement and energy related to the theme.
    3) EAST House is a self-op house that is off the Row. Thus, EAST has maintained the lifestyle benefits of a Row House (aside from location) while largely avoiding the annual discontinuity brought by masses of students seeking only popular and desirable housing. In other words, members of the EAST community are able to return year after year because they are not competitively displaced in the Draw (or, alternatively, they were displaced back into EAST in the Draw).
    4) For the same reasons as above, students who choose to staff at EAST House usually are not those solely seeking popular Row housing, but rather are people who are interested in (or at least open to learning about) the theme. This in turn influences the residents of the house, creating a sort of top-down sense of cohesion in the community.
    5) Student staff selection at EAST was – like currently at other houses – traditionally carried out by current staff. This, together with #4 above, ensured that successive staff more-or-less shared a vision for the house. Furthermore, multiple staff members were often returning residents from the year before, strengthening the continuity.

    The sense of community in EAST was strong enough that it drew in people who weren’t necessarily interested in East Asian studies, but who were simply looking for such an atmosphere. Unfortunately, ever since the East Asian Studies department ceased to provide RFs for the house a few years ago, interest in preserving this theme and its community gradually diminished, starting at the top. I believe that this trickle-down effect is one explanation for the low number of priority residents we see today. By the accounts I hear nowadays, the once-cohesive community in EAST is already fragmenting and the continuity broken. It is unfortunate, and it will take many years of work to rebuild something similar.

  • Alex

    One of the issues not covered here is the difference between priority and pre-assignment. Residents who drew into the house in 08-09 had the option to enter through pre-assignment, priority, or as regular residents. With pre-assignment students are assigned to a house prior to getting a draw number. With priority, students get a draw number but still have priority for drawing into a house over non-priority people. In my opinion, priority was a good option that many people chose as it essentially guaranteed a spot in a house (particularly a large house like EAST) but also provided options for other residences if a very good number was obtained.

    For the 0809 year there were over 30 people that applied for priority at EAST. Following the 0809 year, the priority system was completely abolished and only pre-assignment took place (a change many students were only aware of a week before the pre-assignment deadline). As a direct result, there were no priority residents in 0910 (the 3 cited in the article were pre-assigned students). Because EAST is classified as a row house, people who did pre-assignment to EAST for 0910 used up their tier two housing year. Rather than motivate people towards participating in the theme, the change in rules seems to have pushed people away.

    As was often the case in my experience with housing, the student management was excluded from discussions that led to important changes, such as the abolishment of priority (and apparently the change in theme, though I don’t know the details). I think student management is a great educational experience that relies upon student decision making. Ironically, the events leading to the change of theme from East Asian Studies to Education seem to exhibit an active exclusion of student involvement, therefore mitigating the educational benefits that student management can offer; benefits which, in my opinion, are much greater than those from sitting around a table discussing education.

    Overall, the decision for the theme should be in the hands of the students. If students do have a strong desire for having a greek studies themed house or an art themed house or even an education themed house then thats great – they (the students) should make it happen. I don’t think the addition of a minor program demonstrates enough student interest for non-students to step in and push the change through while students are studying for midterms and stressing over papers.

  • Puzzled

    After reading the comments, it seems that the article misused or left out information that could have helped developed the piece and, more importantly, that do not misuse the quotes provided by those interviewed.

    Nevertheless, it’s a tragic that this is happening.