Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

A response to the University on Chi Theta Chi

To the Stanford community,

We are disappointed to report that Stanford’s Resident and Dining Enterprises (R&DE) and Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs have decided to carry out their plan, announced on Feb. 8, 2012, not to renew the ground lease for the student cooperative residence Chi Theta Chi.

The Feb. 8 announcement came to us as a surprise, with no forewarning of R&DE’s dissatisfaction. Over the last seven months, our all-volunteer alumni organization worked tirelessly to understand and address R&DE’s needs and concerns, to convey the tremendous value that an independent house offers to the Stanford community, and to find a path to gain R&DE’s support for continued independent ownership and management of Chi Theta Chi.

With overwhelming solidarity from residents and alumni, the Association has concluded that the arrangement offered by R&DE does not provide the level of operational independence that we had been seeking. The final version of the proposal would have required that we enter a multi-year interim period without a lease, accept minimal security of future tenure and drastically drain our finances at the University’s discretion. Only after operating with no source of income and running an estimated loss of $70,000 a year during the interim period of up to five years in order to meet the University’s stipulated renovations — many of which do not pertain to life safety — would we be able to apply to have the house deeded back to us. Reneging on a promise made in March, Greg Boardman and Shirley Everett declined to commit to a legally binding agreement outlining clear terms to regaining a lease.

If attained, the new ground lease would no longer be automatically renewable but would instead require the Board to then reapply for renewal every three years even if we have not erred in any way. Even as homeowners, we would still have no definitive authority over physical changes to the house and would be required to conform to institution-wide policies in order to keep the property looking and functioning like all other University residences. We remain certain of the Association’s ability to effectively run Chi Theta Chi in a manner that promotes student welfare, safety and happiness. It is not, however, financially or operationally viable for a small nonprofit organization whose mission is to manage a single property to match the capital improvements of a large institution responsible for many properties.

The new ground lease would also eliminate the freedom of residents to play a role in planning and executing even small physical improvements. Working collaboratively with the Alumni Association to operate and transform the space has always been fundamental to residents’ sense of responsibility for their living space and lessons in home ownership. Under the arrangement offered, residents’ independence as well as the Association’s would be superficial at best. We were unable to accept this offer as it would fail to honor the unique house culture that we have been fighting to preserve on behalf of the students, with their continued support.

In response to these concerns, which we outlined in an Aug. 3 letter, Greg Boardman and Shirley Everett verbally offered to exclude Chi Theta Chi from the Draw. This proposal held little promise, however, since they firmly refused to change any of the terms that made the interim arrangement and new lease impossible for us to accept. Even if the house were excluded from the Draw, we would still be forced to potentially bankrupt ourselves on renovations over which we have no say. As leaseholders, we would still be deprived of any meaningful ownership of the physical property.

We encourage the Stanford community as a whole to maintain a dialogue on creating genuine diversity in student residence choices. Chi Theta Chi’s independence has been seminal in fostering the personal, social, and intellectual growth of hundreds of Stanford students across decades. The Association will continue to seek ways to ensure that Chi Theta Chi remains a haven and a home for students who seek the learning experience afforded by cooperative home ownership.

Sincerely,

The Chi Theta Chi Alumni Association

 

 

 

 

  • Emily AMLC

    It is incredibly disheartening to see such actions taken on the part of the university. I truly respect your decision and your remaining true to the purpose of the cooperative and its principles. The university clearly doesn’t have the perspective or understanding of the importance of “Autonomy and Independence” to creating living spaces that educate, support, and empower its residents.