Letter to the Community: The future of Outdoor House

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To the Stanford Undergraduate Community:

For those unfamiliar, Outdoor House is a student-run community focused on amplifying wellness and forging strong friendships through a shared passion for outdoor recreation. Our community started as a theme house in 2015 and over the years became one of the most popular undergraduate housing options. Be it a campfire in our courtyard, a hike in the Santa Cruz mountains, pre-dinner frisbee, a sunrise surf mission or bad karaoke in the climbing gym, we try to make the most of every day through spontaneous adventure. For many of us, it’s been a dream come true.

The day that ResX was announced, and the CoRL theme house review process along with it, our student team banded together to create a formal application for Outdoor House to become an Academic Theme House (UTH-A) under the new residential system. The team includes past house members, students who were lined up to staff or reside in the house for the 2020-2021 year and some folks who simply believe in the value of our community.

As we prepared our application, we took a hard look at the systemic problems that Outdoor House has perpetuated. We recognized that despite our desire to be an inclusive community, Outdoor House has been a center of whiteness, wealth and privilege on the Stanford campus. Centered on expensive hobbies, the house has not shown enough regard to the people we exclude, the land on which we recreate or perspectives outside the mainstream interpretation of outdoor recreation. We realized this was an opportunity to reorient our community, and create a space actively opposed to the harmful norms of “outdoorsiness” in America.

Our application imagined a theme house which removes recreation from the spotlight in favor of education, reflection and action on the issues of racial and environmental justice in the outdoors. We believe deeply that spending time in nature makes us healthier and happier, helps us become better people and can form relationships that last a lifetime. But for these benefits to be distributed equitably, for our community to be truly inclusive, we realized that we must attend less to the ways we recreate, and focus more energy toward creating a culture better than the one we have inherited.

We explain all of this because the Outdoor House which our application imagined is drastically different from the Outdoor House which you may have known. Understanding our vision is crucial to grappling with the fact that the Undergraduate Residences Governance Council (URGC) did not accept our application for theme house status. Upon the rejection of our application, our wonderful faculty and staff team leaped to our support, and we wrote to the URGC addressing their concerns and requesting an opportunity to appeal this decision. However, our request to appeal was denied. The reality is simple: Outdoor House is unhoused.

Though this is tough news, we do not consider this to be a mortal blow to our community. We are optimistic that with the growing support of our faculty and staff team, we will have an excellent shot at getting rehoused in 2022. In the meantime, we have a plan to continue our mission of education, recreation and inclusive community during the upcoming school year. If any student believes that Outdoor House could be the community for them, we urge them to aim for neighborhood T in the upcoming draw. By making this neighborhood the center of outdoor recreation on campus, we can expand our community to accommodate the huge amount of interest we know exists surrounding our theme. So please, join us. Our residential experience is limited only by the scope of our collective imagination.

With hope for our dream, and certainty in the adventures to come,

The Outdoor House Student Team:
Eric Bear
Eleanor Glockner
Drake Kirby
Doug Klink
Page Proctor
Anna Quinlan
Sean Roelofs
Kyra Whitelaw

With thanks to our faculty/staff team:
Sue Lowley, Director of the Stanford Adventure Program
Rob Dunbar, Keck Professor of Earth Sciences
Alex Accetta, Executive Director of Recreation and Wellness
Nate Farrington, Coordinator of Outdoor Experiences for the Stanford Adventure Program
Jeff Schwegman, Assistant Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences
Alyson Chun, Assistant Director of the Stanford Adventure Program
Jorge Ramos, Associate Director for Environmental Education
Laura Jones, Director of Heritage Services and University Archaeologist

The Daily is committed to publishing a diversity of op-eds and letters to the editor. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Email letters to the editor to eic ‘at’ stanforddaily.com and op-ed submissions to opinions ‘at’ stanforddaily.com. 

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