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Negotiations Proceed on the Management of Chi Theta Chi

Residents' chief concern is keeping the co-op's distinctive culture.

The Chi Theta Chi cooperative house, a co-ed campus residence unique for its extensive self-governance, will lose its ground lease for at least two years under a co-management agreement that concludes months of negotiations with the University. The arrangement was close to completion at press time.

The 35-student house, which has been run by an alumni board, could be granted a new lease as early as September 2014. The interim period will introduce a variety of University controls over the house's operations, although details remained under discussion in early June.

The decision to cancel the lease was presented to the board in February, with the University citing numerous concerns over recurring health, safety and legal violations. The board and residents responded in large part by disputing the accuracy or severity of some of the problems, and a protest campaign on behalf of Chi Theta Chi collected more than 2,000 signatures through an online petition.

The board and residents say their core issue is the preservation of a distinctive culture based on both freedoms and responsibilities, including their oversight of property maintenance, their financial investments in the facility, their choices for furnishings and wall murals, their communal showers and the practice of keeping the house's outer doors unlocked.

University officials say conditions became untenable because of the chronic nature of the lapses and the nonresponsiveness of previous boards. A telling example, says Greg Boardman, vice provost for student affairs, was the discovery that smoke detectors were not working because they had been painted over.

Boardman also notes, however, that University officials are impressed with the current efforts led by board president Abel Allison, '08, MS '09, and financial officer Madeleine Douglas, '09, MA '10. "They have been very strong advocates for Chi Theta Chi, have been strong in communicating the importance of the culture of the organization and have taken such a strong sense of leadership in this that they've built trust on our part that they are the two that can lead this endeavor," says Boardman.

Senior Elif Tasar, one of the two student house managers, said in an email that "residents are hopeful but still very suspicious" about the University's willingness to maintain the Chi Theta Chi culture. But she also emphasized that the most recent meetings with representatives from the housing and residential education offices had been productive.

Stanford will continue to follow developments.

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