This is a copy of our Community News email newsletter, sent December 9, 2021.

As some of you may have heard, the College Houses Board of Directors discussed changes at 21st Street Co-op at their regular meeting yesterday, December 8. The Board’s decision was made after several months of discussion, and the decision is not the end of this work, as many details must be decided during the spring semester. While not all details are finalized, we want to communicate everything that we do know, and remain transparent in the future as more discussion takes place. We also want to say up front that there will be more opportunities for alumni and community members to voice their concerns and ideas throughout the spring semester.

What Did the Board Decide? (Short Version)
Please scroll down for more nitty-gritty details

The Board of Directors started a process with the ultimate goal of preserving 21st Street Co-op by ensuring that the house remained in compliance with the law and with College Houses’ nonprofit status. The Board decided that the best way to go about this process was to transition 21st Street Co-op to become a substance-free house starting in the summer of 2022.

Who Made This Decision?
We have seen some questions about the make-up of the Board and how College Houses is governed. The College Houses Board of Directors is composed of 12 representatives elected from our seven houses, as well as up to three (currently only two) Community Board Representatives, who are elected by the entire membership at twice-annual General Membership Meetings. All 14 members were present for yesterday’s meeting, as well as many guests from our membership who joined to voice their point of view.

The staff members employed by College Houses did not make this decision or interfere with the democratic processes of the co-op. The staff are here to help our members as they manage their co-op, as well as to help inform the community about College Houses activities (such as by sending emails like this one.) The staff will do our best to continue to answer your questions, while respecting the democratic decisions made by current members and their elected representatives on the Board.

Why Was This Necessary?
The College Houses Board of Directors has been concerned for some time about College Houses’ compliance with its nonprofit status, the law, and its internal policies. This concern arose primarily due to documented incidents at 21st Street Co-op. These incidents continued and intensified over the course of this semester, and the Board of Directors decided it was necessary to take action in order to be accountable for these issues and to work in good faith to solve them.

These incidents were reported from multiple sources, both within and outside of our membership. Unfortunately, these incidents are by their nature confidential. We ask that you have faith in our elected Board members, and trust that the reports were severe and credible enough to warrant the actions taken by the Board.

What Happens Next?
As mentioned at the start of this email, the decisions made by the Board were neither the start nor the end of this discussion. The Board has expressed a commitment to being as transparent as possible as more details are discussed. The work in the semester ahead will be led by our members, but will also include the voices of our alumni and the broader co-op community as much as possible.

There will continue to be opportunities for the membership of 21st Street to participate in this work and to shape the future of their house. Next semester, 21st Street members will work toward the same goal of preserving 21st Street using a plan they developed. Their plan is designed to show that all wonderful things about their house are not mutually exclusive with long-term sustainability and compliance with policy and the law. For example, the plan includes stopping unauthorized open-to-the-public events in order to preserve the value of house events without the issues that have historically come from open events. They will have the full support of the membership, Board, and staff as they do this work.

What Did the Board Decide? (Long Version)
Here are the relevant motions which the Board passed yesterday. Please keep in mind that there was long discussion by the Board, including 21st Street Co-op’s elected representatives, and that much of that nuance may not be captured in these motions alone. We will do our best to fill in those gaps with the summary below. We will also be able to communicate more details with you as they are fleshed out.

  • “Motion to mandate a policy of substance-free living at 21st St. Co-op starting in the Summer 2022 term. Adopted by majority.”
  • “Motion to close down the 21st St. Co-op for the Summer 2022 term provisionally with the intent of revisiting the idea of a program to repopulate and restore the image and culture of the 21st St. Co-op. Adopted by majority.”
  • “Motion to restrict contract renewals for current or past residents of 21st St. Co-op for the Summer 2022 term. Adopted by majority.”
  • “Motion to require a commitment form that acknowledges the policy of substance-free living for all future residents starting in the Summer 2022 term. Adopted by majority.“
  • “Motion to immediately start the eviction process for any officer or member that puts College Houses’ nonprofit status at risk by violating applicable laws and policies. Adopted by majority.”
  • “Motion to pass for the 21st contingency plan with follow up every semester by the BOD. If 21st is in violation of the agreement, the current discussion will immediately be passed on to the Executive Committee in order to make a decision at the next BOD meeting. Adopted by Majority.”

Here is a brief summary that highlights what these motions mean in practice:

  • Starting next summer, 21st Street will have a policy that no substances, including alcohol, will be held or consumed on the property.
  • There will be additional processes for new members joining the co-op starting in summer, in order to make sure that all members agree to and understand the substance-free policy.
  • People who were members of 21st Street in the past will currently not be able to live at 21st Street during next summer. During next summer, there will be a concerted effort to amplify the positive elements of 21st Street’s history and culture, while also making sure that 21st Street and College Houses can sustain themselves long-term by being in compliance with the law and our nonprofit status. This exact process will be developed by the Board during the spring semester, taking input from the entire co-op community.
  • The motion about evicting members who have violated laws and policies is not introducing anything new, but rather emphasizing that we must remain accountable and follow through on violations when necessary.
  • 21st Street has internally developed a plan to ensure that their house can sustain itself and remain in compliance, and they will carry out this plan during the spring semester. In this motion, the Board is showing its support for 21st Street to pursue this plan. The outcome of this work at the house will be taken into account by the Board as they continue to discuss further details for the future.

We Know This Is A Lot
We know that this news may come as a shock, and you likely still have questions. We want to thank you for your patience so far, and ask that you remain patient as we continue working to get you all the information we can.