The theme houses Outdoor House, Haus Mitteleuropa and Freshman Sophomore College (FroSoCo) will be discontinued under the new ResX residential framework going into effect in fall 2021.
Nine academic theme houses were approved to join the new neighborhood system, including the familiar Structured Liberal Education (SLE) and ITALIC. La Casa Italiana, La Maison Française (French House) and Slavianskii Dom were taken off the Row and combined into Yost house in Governor’s Corner, which will be called the “At Home Abroad House.”
Student Affairs spokesperson Pat Harris wrote that factors determining which theme houses to approve were “supporting and advancing the core principles of ResX including: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Community and Belonging; Intellectual and Personal Growth; and Health and Well-being [and] placing all [theme houses] in residences that have a Resident Fellow to ensure continuity and support for these critical programs.”
While Haus Mitt was a self-operated house, Outdoor House and FroSoCo both had Resident Fellows (RFs).
Outdoor House, located in Jenkins in Suites, had partnered with the Outdoor Center on campus since the 2015-16 academic year to form a community centered around outdoor education. Stanford rejected Outdoor House’s application on April 6, as well as its appeal of their decision to continue as a theme house on Tuesday.
The Undergraduate Residences Governance Council (URGC) wrote in an email to the applicants that if they were to apply next year, they should “work to build a more robust connection to the university, including involving faculty leadership.” Other applications were more faculty-led, such as Slavianskii Dom, supported by the Slavic Department and French and Italian House, supported by the Department of French and Italian, according to professor Gabriella Safran in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. According to Safran, ResEd made the decision to combine the houses, which later became “At Home Abroad House.” Haus Mitt did not become a part of the ResX system because it did not apply, according to Safran. Outdoor House’s application was endorsed by one faculty member and seven staff members, but written by students.
The URGC also wrote that Outdoor House should pursue “meaningful engagement with faculty and staff in the important areas of equity and inclusion to more fully address the cultural concerns of the previous outdoor house that you included so explicitly in your application.” The house’s theme applicants focused on shifting its framework to address issues inherent in centering a house around outdoor culture — a traditionally white and wealthy space. In a Letter to the Community, Outdoor House community members wrote that “Centered on expensive hobbies, the house has not shown enough regard to the people we exclude, the land we recreate on, 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,” they continued. “Our application imagined a theme house which removes recreation from the spotlight in favor of education, reflection, and action.”
As a result, they wrote, the theme house they proposed was “drastically different” from the previous Outdoor House. With “growing support” from faculty, they feel they will have an “excellent shot” at getting their theme back for the 2022-23 academic year. They also wrote that any students interested in the theme next year should aim to draw into Neighborhood T, where they plan to informally congregate. Neighborhood T includes Wilbur Hall, Enchanted Broccoli Forest, Narnia, Jerry, Chi Omega and 610 Mayfield (the former French House).
Outdoor House nearly lost their outdoor education theme in the last pre-pandemic academic year following miscommunication among administrative channels about the theme’s status as a pilot program or permanent fixture on campus. Residential Education reversed its November 2018 decision to strip the house of its theme within days after widespread resident pushback, granting it a one-year extension into the 2019-2020 academic year.
FroSoCo, previously located in Adams and Schiff houses in Governor’s Corner, was an application-based house for frosh and sophomores who lived there as frosh. It was known as a quieter dorm, isolated from the majority of frosh living in all-frosh dorms on East Campus, but many of its residents found community and pride in living there. Under the new ResX framework, all first-year students will live in all-frosh dorms. Sterling Quad, where Adams, Schiff and the upperclass dorms Potter and Robinson are located, will be converted to all-frosh housing.
“One of the defining, unique qualities of FroSoCo was the continuity of experience between the Frosh/Soph year — that is, you got to stay in the same place with your friends,” wrote Schiff RF Scott Calvert in a Slack message to the FroSoCo community. “We’re really excited to see that ResX has embraced continuity with the new neighborhood model. […] In this way, FroSoCo’s legacy lives on.”
Calvert wrote that if students want to create a house with a similar culture in Sterling Quad as FroSoCo, they should apply to staff the house next year.
“I hope you’ll use your influence to build an environment where folks feel free to ‘geek out together,’” he wrote. “I’m hoping that there is something in the location, legacy, and maybe just the spirit of the house that will help us cultivate the kind of community that we’ve had in the past.”
Haus Mitt also did not get housing under the ResX system. Ana Cabrera ’20, who staffed there as a Resident Computer Consultant (RCC) last year, was shocked and saddened when she found out her previous residence would not be included in the new system.
“I know a lot of people think about these houses as themes that lend to parties and don’t really add that much to the Stanford community aside from that but I do think that there is a small group of people who it does provide community for,” Cabrera said. “People who studied abroad in Berlin, people who are majoring in German, people who are German themselves did find a space within the house and I am sad they will not have this space.”
During her interview for the RCC position with previous house staff, Haus Mitt’s emphasis on inclusivity drew her to its community.
“They wanted to make sure it was a space open to the community, especially with the notion that usually row houses are seen as elitist white private spaces and they didn’t want to stick with that notion,” Cabrera said. During her time in the house, “it did feel as if it was welcoming, as if anybody could walk in.”
The houses that were not approved, Harris wrote, were “provided feedback on how to improve their application and were invited to reapply next year,” suggesting that the academic theme houses could change after the first year of ResX.
This article has been updated to include the comment from professor Gabriella Safran who reached out after the publication of the article.