Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

Editorial: Chi Theta Chi and University ownership

Wednesday, Feb. 8 was a momentous day for the residents and alumni of Chi Theta Chi, a student run cooperative house that is one of only two on-campus student residences not owned by the University. A collection of University officials (including the Vice Provost of Student Affairs, the Dean of Residential Education, and the Senior Associate Vice Provost for Residential & Dining Enterprises) told Chi Theta Chi’s managerial staff that the University planned to not renew Chi Theta Chi’s land lease, thereby bringing the house under University ownership.

 

During the meeting, the University cited a number of reasons for its decision, including: Chi Theta Chi’s expired corporation status with the State of California (which means Chi Theta Chi cannot be held liable for incidents on its property), fire inspection violations and concerns about the comfort and safety of students who draw into the house but may not wish to live there. Currently, the University plans to begin collecting rent from residents starting spring quarter, to close the house over the summer for renovations (the first summer closure for the house in many years), and to reopen Chi Theta Chi as a fully integrated University co-op for the 2012-13 academic year.

 

Reactions to the news across campus were largely negative. Students both within and outside of the co-op community expressed concern at the University’s handling of the announcement, which came with minimal forewarning and little attempt to jointly resolve the situation. Students also expressed concern at the potential loss of one of only two private-title student residences on campus, and the only private-title residence open to all Stanford undergraduates via the Draw. The other private-title house, the all-male Sigma Chi fraternity, is typically only open to fraternity members during the academic year. As a private-title house, Chi Theta Chi offers unique management opportunities for its residents beyond ordinary self-op and co-op managerial duties. Current and former residents also cite Chi Theta Chi’s “work week” – a week before classes begin in September when all Chi Theta Chi residents work on house projects – and Chi Theta Chi’s ability to stay open to students during the summer as other unique advantages that University-owned houses do not offer.

 

Undoubtedly, Chi Theta Chi needs to address some of the University’s complaints – by, for instance, correcting fire inspection violations. This Board, however, wonders if the University could have pursued less drastic measures before unilaterally revoking Chi Theta Chi’s lease. We question, for instance, the University justifying its decision by citing a tax status issue that only arose this past August (and has since been resolved) and what amounts to a straw-man argument about student “comfort and safety.” Chi Theta Chi was one of the most desirable residences in the 2011-2012 housing draw, so random students with poor draw numbers are not being assigned to Chi Theta Chi; Chi Theta Chi could also easily convert to a 100 percent pre-assigned residence to formally eliminate any potential unhappy residents. Particularly in light of the University’s decision to reinstate the Kappa Sigma fraternity’s housing for the 2012-13 academic year, we argue that it is equitable to give Chi Theta Chi a similar “second chance” to allay the University’s concerns. If Chi Theta Chi has not adequately addressed the University’s concerns in a year, then revoking its land lease may be more justified.

 

Chi Theta Chi’s independence produces a unique culture unlike any other residential culture on campus. The Facebook page in support of Chi Theta Chi is aptly titled “Keep XOX weird.” It would be a shame to unnecessarily compromise the independence of such a unique mainstay of campus culture.

About Editorial Board

Editorials represent the views of The Stanford Daily, an independent newspaper serving Stanford and the surrounding community. The Daily's Editorial Board consists of President and Editor-in-Chief Victor Xu '17, Executive Editor Will Ferrer '18, Managing Editor of Opinions Michael Gioia '17, Desk Editor of Opinions Jimmy Stephens '17, Senior Staff Writer Kylie Jue '17, Senior Staff Writer Olivia Hummer '17 and Senior Staff Writer Andrew Vogeley '17. To contact the Editorial Board chair, submit an op-ed (limited to 700 words) or submit a letter to the editor (limited to 500 words) at eic@stanforddaily.com.