“THE FEW VERY RICH can get their education anywhere,” said Senator Stanford in his last letter to David Starr Jordan (the first president of the University). “They will be welcome to this institution if they come, but the object is more particularly to reach the multitude—those people who have to consider the expenditure of every dollar.” But over the years the Stanford Family has winced to see this University become, perhaps partly out of necessity, a rich man’s school. And for whatever reasons and however justifiable, the hard fact is still that Stanford has failed a fundamental aim of its founders.
With us they would watch sadly next month the death of the only active adherence to the original ideal still remaining at Stanford, when the University administration terminates the Walter Thompson Co-op House.
In spite of the vicissitudes of its establishment, the lack of University encouragement, and all the years of the war, the Co-op has operated continuously, has served superior meals, has kept low prices, and still shows a surplus of one thousand dollars. (At one time, it not only provided meals for its own members, but also for the graduate women of Hilltop House.) During the same period, the fraternities and eating clubs were forced to close entirely, and the University lost money on men’s halls under its management while keeping them less clean, serving inferior meals, and charging prices twice as high. The meals served at the Co-op are the best available to men, army or civilian, on campus, and the cost of both room and board is the lowest of any campus living group, men’s or women’s. The Co-op has been successful. It has also made a definite contribution to student life.
Among its members have been counted Jews, blacks, and nationals of twenty foreign countries. And from the beginning, the operation of the house on cooperative and democratic principles has been for the most part effective and congenial, and for many members, a godsend.
For two successive years the Co-op ranked first among all living groups in scholarship. Numbers of its members have served on Excom and Men’s Council, and other offices of student government, and have participated in every activity from the choir to intramurals to theatricals. Members have held scholarships, worked as instructors and as teaching and resident assistants.
And no Co-op member has ever been brought before Men’s Council on a moral charge or violation of the honor code.
Far from deserving termination, the Co-op more than any single living group deserves official backing by the University.
Leland Stanford took frequent occasion to further the cause of cooperation and cooperative groups. He even introduced a bill in the US Senate to encourage and provide for the formation of cooperatives in the District of Columbia.
And in support of it he delivered two months later one of his rare speeches on the floor of the Senate.
In the exercises of the opening day of the University he was careful to point out that provision had been made for freely teaching the benefits of cooperation, through which modern progress had been mostly achieved. “Cooperative societies,” he said, “bring forth the best capacities, the best influences of the individual for the benefit of the whole.” The doubtful venture of the founding of the Walter Thompson Co-op was underwritten by eighteen of the Stanford faculty, and approved in writing by twenty-two more. The name was in honor of the late Walter Thompson, a kindly professor of political science, who had actively furthered the Cooperative Movement. And among scores of contributors, Mrs. David Starr Jordan herself gave a table, chairs, and wicker furniture toward the establishment of the house.
With the passing of the Co-op, and with the imminent commencement of direct supervision of the fraternities and other residences by the University, and its published intention of raising room rent yet again for next quarter, our regrets are deepened that the winds of freedom will blow henceforth less briskly.
Written by Cyclone Covey (one of the student residents of the Walter Thompson Cooperative House)