Following a month of dialogue between Chi Theta Chi (XOX) representatives and University administrators, reports from both sides suggest that they are making progress toward a mutually acceptable settlement, following the University’s February decision to take control of the house.
Citing “pressing life safety issues,” the University moved Feb. 8 to terminate the lease of XOX, with the stated intent of assuming control of the house on April 2.
Even after delaying the takeover to Aug. 31 – the expiration date of the annually renewed lease – the University maintained that it would assume control of the XOX house despite protests from the XOX community and the ASSU Undergraduate Senate.
“This decision was the result of longstanding and unresolved issues…as well as the determination that the Chi Theta Chi Alumni Board was not able to provide effective oversight or satisfactorily meet the conditions of the lease,” wrote Vice Provost of Student Affairs Greg Boardman and Senior Associate Vice Provost for Residential and Dining Enterprises Shirley Everett in an email to The Daily.
Abel Allison ’08, president of the XOX alumni board, said that while as of a Feb. 23 meeting with University administrators the University still intends to end the current lease, he felt that the actual continuation of a dialogue between XOX and the University is in part due to the support XOX received from the Stanford community.
“We believe the University is beginning to understand why independence is critical to the house’s unique character, thanks to the outpouring of support from alumni and the community at large,” Allison wrote in an email to The Daily.
“We have heard from students, parents and alumni about Chi Theta Chi’s inimitable character and the life-changing effect it has had on them, and we have taken this into account as we engage in discussions about future arrangements,” Boardman and Everett wrote.
While declining to discuss specific details of ongoing talks with the University, Allison emphasized that the University and XOX share the goal of “ensuring that the student living environment is a safe and healthy one.” He noted that XOX’s alumni association is in the process of undertaking structural reforms to accomplish more effective and consistent oversight and house management, including proposals such as the hiring of a property manager, a role used by the only other independently operated house on campus, Sigma Chi.
Allison also highlighted the efforts of the alumni board to disprove the issues – such as fire hazards, the risk of default and a failure to maintain corporate status – referenced by the University as grounds for letting the lease expire. The alumni board submitted more than 200 pages of evidence to the University at a Feb. 23 meeting.
“We provided a response to the University that documents our actions and status as a corporation in an effort to show that the decision to end the lease is extreme and that the culture of the house is inextricably tied to its independent operation,” Allison wrote.
Explaining the University’s initial attempt to assume control on April 2, Boardman and Everett cited “alarming reports” from fire and health inspectors about conditions in the XOX house. With the most pressing issues resolved, the University was able to continue the dialogue with XOX, but Boardman and Everett expressed concerns about the ability of the alumni board to effectively and safely operate the house.
“Moving forward while we are in discussion about the status of Chi Theta Chi, other facilities projects will only be undertaken after a fully collaborative process has been established and followed,” Boardman and Everett wrote.
Boardman and Everett emphasized that the alumni board “effectively communicated the critical nature of their independence from the University,” and they acknowledged the effect that input from XOX community members had on discussions about future arrangements. They also highlighted the University’s desire to maintain a “rich variety of living environments” incorporating Chi Theta Chi’s unique culture.
“We appreciate the opportunity to be in dialogue with the Alumni Board, and we expect to have a resolution soon that honors core (and often shared) values and priorities of both the University and Chi Theta Chi,” Boardman and Everett wrote.