From the Community | Abolish Stanford Greek: ResX is doomed to fail from the start

Opinion by Noor Fakih
April 8, 2021, 11:28 p.m.

ResX is a plan meant to redesign and envision a new Residential Experience at Stanford. While it may have some advantages, one thing remains clear: ResX is doomed to fail if it continues to reserve 10 Row houses for Greek Life. The point of introducing ResX to our campus is to tackle housing inequality, improve relationships and to avoid the destruction of frosh communities as they enter their sophomore year, so how does that work when 10 houses are off limits?

Reserving 10 houses to organizations that are not financially accessible to all and have restrictive membership only contributes to the problem of housing inequality. A major issue ResX attempts to tackle is the Row’s historic tendency to be composed largely of white students with a higher socioeconomic status, causing the Row to harshly deviate from the diversity of the general student body. While I had been able to access these statistics at one point, the Stanford administration continues to lack the transparency they claim to champion and have not have the information available to the public. ResX plans to include Row houses in a neighborhood format and to change the tier system to one dependent on class year (ResX Report p. 23). The idea is that one should be able to smoothly transition from houses within their neighborhood, from their frosh dorm to themed houses or four-class dorms, to a Row house in their senior year if they so choose, all within their neighborhood. This means you can only get in the highly-desirable Row houses if you are a senior, instead of using your Tier 1 in the previous system. 

Currently there are 18 self-ops, seven co-ops and 10 Greek houses each housing 55 people on average. Greek organizations occupy 550 out of approximately 1,925 spots on the Row, which is close to 30% of available housing in that highly-desirable locale. With 6,994 students in the undergraduate body, approximately one fourth of those, or 1,748, are seniors. If Greek organizations returned their homes to the general student population, then every single senior who wanted to live on the Row would have the opportunity to. 

Instead, Greek organizations have a majority of their houses occupied by sophomores who rushed their frosh spring. If the senior class were to occupy the Row instead of Greek organizations, you would see that the diversity of the Row would closely mirror that of the general student population. If ResX really wanted to address the issues of the Row, how can they not do the simple math I did and clearly see the answer?

From the Community | Abolish Stanford Greek: ResX is doomed to fail from the start

Another major aspect of the ResX plan is to create 10-14 neighborhoods (now finalized to be 8), each with their own neighborhood council that will be made up of a representative from each dorm in their neighborhood (ResX Report p. 2). As ResX plans to place at most one Greek house in each neighborhood, a majority of the councils will have a member advocating for its Greek house, as not a single Greek organization is able to separate their organizational identity from their house. This choice poses several issues. First of all, no other student groups will be awarded this power or influence over a neighborhood. Second, this puts unhoused Greek organizations at a major disadvantage, especially African American Fraternal and Sororal Association (AAFSA) and Multicultural Greek Council (MCG) Greek organizations who don’t have a single housed organization. Most egregious of all, as Greek membership does not reflect the socioeconomic diversity of the Stanford student body, it’s likely that their appointed representative on the Neighbourhood Council will not either. One may argue that ethnic themed dorms like Ujamaa or Zapata also do not reflect the diversity of the student population, but these are spaces accessible to all and serve to champion underrepresented minorities, one of the only spaces on campus where they can truly celebrate and engage with their culture. In contrast, Greek organizations are composed of mainly white and wealthy students who do not need a house to “champion” them, as society as a whole already does. Simply put, it is unfair and unethical to even consider awarding select IFC/ISC organizations such power over the general student body’s residential experience.

Another major problem is that while ResX is meant to help combat the issue that frosh communities are pulled apart due to the Draw, Greek recruitment still breaks apart frosh dorm communities. This breaking of communities only contributes to the dreaded “sophomore slump.” Stanford claims to have addressed this issue with their new housing plan, but failed to account for the way in which the Greek system contributes to this trend. Following formal recruitment in frosh spring, many will be pulled out of their original neighborhoods to live in their Greek houses. This breaks apart neighborhood communities the same way it has been doing to frosh communities for years. 

It is clear that ResX themselves understand that any residential system where Greek organizations have reserved housing is harmful and counterproductive to their goals. They state in their report that housed Greek organizations are “inextricably linked with perceived social power and prestige. This cultural understanding linked with demographics trends is a significant concern for ResX.” They acknowledge that Greek life is nowhere near to having the diversity they claim to have, and that by housing Greek organizations they are handing them an inordinate amount of power and control over the campus. In the ResX report, they also state that they discovered three core reasons for why Greek recruitment had increased in the past years: “A search for community on campus, particularly in the transition from frosh to sophomore year,” a “deep desire to avoid the housing draw at all costs” and “the ability to live for multiple years with a group of friends of their choosing.” The solutions Greek life offers to these problems only perpetuate housing inequity. Everyone wants to avoid the Draw, and that is why 46% of people avoid it using methods such as pre-assignment. Everyone wants to live with their friends, but only Greek organizations are able to use loopholes provided by the Stanford administration to live in their Row house for 3 years (ResX Special Interest: Greek).

If people are joining Greek organizations due to their interest in their houses, this poses two troubling issues as well. Chapters who are unhoused are at a major disadvantage and state that “the current system does not provide fair and equitable opportunities for their chapters to access shared housing” (p. 40). Unhoused chapters are seen as less desirable and often have significantly lower membership than those who are housed, despite offering the same touted benefits of Greek organizations. Ultimately, ResX’s research speaks for itself: Through ResX’s research, they “quickly found that FSL residences are related to and closely connected with overall issues for the Stanford residential experience.” Then if ResX acknowledges the harm housed Greek life perpetuates on campus, why is nothing being done? ResX can clearly see that continuing to keep reserve housing for Greek orgs is harmful to the general Stanford community, yet they “plan to continue with 10 currently allocated houses” for Greek organizations (ResX Special Interest: Greek).

How far will the administration go to ignore the blatant facts? In a survey done by The Daily, 60% of students reported that they believe Greek organizations should be unhoused or removed from campus, Abolish Stanford Greek’s Instagram @abolishstanfordgreek documents countless stories of harm done unto the student body by Greek organizations, and ResX has done its own research. I can’t help feeling disappointed that the Stanford administration has not made the decision to unhouse Greek organizations yet. The student body deserves better.

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