Proclaiming that “we will not forget and we will not go quietly,” approximately 70 Chi Theta Chi (XOX) residents and members of the Stanford community marched on the Office of the Vice Provost of Student Affairs (VPSA) on Monday morning in protest of the University’s decision to terminate the house’s lease.
Led by drums and bearing placards with slogans such as “Home is where the lease is,” protesters walked from XOX to the Tresidder Union office of Student Affairs, where they called on Vice Provost of Student Affairs Greg Boardman to engage in a direct dialogue with residents about the house’s future.
“We are distraught by the failure of [University administrators] to acknowledge our repeated attempts to demonstrate the value of our student-owned and managed community,” said Kelsey Grousbeck ‘12, a XOX kitchen manager, reading from a statement signed by all XOX residents and eating associates.
XOX residents have expressed concern in recent weeks at the lack of input they’ve been granted in ongoing negotiations between the University and the XOX Alumni Board, a sentiment echoed in the statement. Stanford officials voted to let XOX’s lease lapse for at least two years, during which time Stanford and XOX will jointly manage the house.
“Since the announcement on February 8 to revoke Chi Theta Chi’s lease, the administration has failed to treat Chi Theta Chi’s residents as valued undergraduate students,” Grousbeck said. “The administration has demonstrated a lack of consideration for the character, creativity and family of Chi Theta Chi.”
“I think that it’s important for students to have an outlet,” said Abel Allison ‘08, president of the Alumni Board, in advance of the march. “Until recently, we hadn’t really been able to communicate the details of what’s being discussed. I trust that they’ll be respectful.”
Grousbeck argued that the introduction of joint oversight — between the University and the Alumni Board — of the house for an interim period lasting “a minimum of two years” would jeopardize the house’s culture of independent living and the institutional memory of that experience among students.
“Without the knowledge of the level of responsibility required to run the house and maintain our community values, the lease would fall into ineffective hands,” Grousbeck said.
Residents also sought more immediate clarification by the University on issues identified as particularly pressing, such as the ability of the Alumni Board to retain control of the lease during the interim period, the ability of residents to continue to pay rent to the Alumni Board and the restoration of the lease by the time current sophomore residents are seniors.
The statement’s sentiments were echoed by Daniel Mattes ‘12, kitchen manager at Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Mattes argued that the XOX lease issue has been symptomatic of more rigorous University oversight of the co-op community, leading to a “sense of constant suspense and fear” for co-op residents.
“We stand in full support of Chi Theta Chi, and we find it deeply disturbing how the University has handled this,” Mattes said.
Boardman acknowledged that there are “a number of issues here which we need to go through” and offered to converse with a smaller number of residents in private.
“In the next few days, I will be reviewing and discussing this [statement] with my colleagues in Residential and Dining Enterprises, which includes Housing, as well as my staff in Residential Education,” Boardman wrote later in an email to The Daily. “And, we’ll continue to meet with the Chi Theta Chi Alumni Board.”
When his offer of a smaller gathering was refused, however, Boardman returned to his office while protesters remained outside to further express their discontent with the lease issue.
“The response was disappointing,” Grousbeck said after the event, noting that XOX resident representatives had met with Boardman last week and had notified him in advance of the march. “We kind of thought he would have some response, even a prepared one.”
“These are issues that extend beyond the 37 people in XOX,” said Autumn Burnes ‘12, XOX resident assistant (RA), in thanking her fellow protesters for the turnout. “What you’re seeing here is an expression of frustration from students who feel excluded from the situation.”
After spending just over half an hour outside the office of Student Affairs, protesters gradually dispersed or returned to XOX.
After the event, Boardman acknowledged that the lack of student input in ongoing negotiations was “understandably frustrating” for XOX residents, but argued that the focus on the lease — a legal document between the Alumni Board and the University — meant student input had been harder to incorporate.
“We are indeed making progress,” Boardman wrote. “In retrospect, we wish we had developed a more open process that included the student voice in a more purposeful manner. Having said that, however, the Alumni Board has served, in my opinion, as strong advocates for the Chi Theta Chi community.”
Alex Kindel ‘14, a marcher and a former ASSU Senator, expressed optimism about the degree of student involvement in the protests, but criticized the response by administrators.
“I thought it was great that so many students from across campus rolled out in support,” Kindel wrote in an email to The Daily. “To their credit, VPSA and Residential Education officials did listen to student statements, but it was disappointing to me that they declined to participate in a conversation with the gathered students.”