John Gibson will never be able to graduate UC Berkeley.
Gibson will never live his dream of working for Doctors Without Borders.
Gibson will never be able to live independently.
Gibson was a Cloyne Court resident who suffered from a severe drug overdose and had a heart attack. The residents of Cloyne Court waited to dial 911, and because of this, Gibson lost oxygen to his brain.
This is not the first incident to happen at Cloyne. There have been overdoses, sexual assaults, cases of violence and hospitalizations. Now, only after a lawsuit from Gibson’s understandably furious mother, has the Berkeley Student Cooperative finally proposed to take action against the residents of Cloyne Court.
BSC has said it will evict all members of Cloyne and declare the house “substance free.” This proposal may be the first step in the long road to preventing future tragedies. Some people, however, have begun to fight against this well-intentioned idea.
In a Feb. 25 op-ed in the Daily Californian, Shayna Howitt and Elon Rov wrote that the BSC proposal, by shutting down Cloyne, would be “erasing our culture of personal accountability and collective responsibility,” which would “reverse years of hard work.” The irony in Rov and Howitt’s claim would be funny if this weren’t such a serious issue. If Rov and Howitt believe that Cloyne members are collectively responsible for their house, then they surely must agree that the BSC’s proposal is appropriate. As a collective, all members of Cloyne are responsible for their culture, one that has led to injuries, severe brain damage and in the case of Fre Hindeya in 2006, death. Yet in those situations, the same residents do not want to be held accountable.
These repeated incidents incontrovertibly demonstrate that Cloyne is unable to protect its residents. Rov and Howitt express their fear that a substance-free house would create a culture of silence, yet the residents of Cloyne court only waited to call 911 because of a culture that discourages contacting the authorities. According to Gibson’s mother, BSC rules even discourage calling 911 without the permission of a house leader. There can be no worse culture of silence than one that silently watches as a bright young man’s brain is destroyed.
Rov and Howitt alternately proposed that Cloyne take efforts to reduce substance abuse on its own. That ship, however, has long since sailed. It is a telling sign that the “Save Cloyne” website shows most of the members of the house with alcohol in their hands. If today’s Cloyne is, as Rov and Howitt claim, the result of “strong leadership,” it seems apparent to me that Cloyne needs some very different people at its helm.
Both on the “Save Cloyne” website and in the Rov and Howitt op-ed, there are tales of what a wonderful and magical place Cloyne can be. Quite frankly, I do not care. I would much rather have had all the residents of Cloyne endure miserable, four years at college than see Gibson turn into a virtual vegetable and Hindeya die.
The cooperative movement is treasured here at UC Berkeley. It is also plagued with problems. I don’t live in a co-op, but as a Berkeley student — and as a human being — I feel the need to take action when a regents’ and chancellor’s scholar such as Gibson has his life utterly destroyed. I feel a responsibility to do whatever it takes to protect my friends and peers from suffering Gibson’s and Hindeya’s fate.
Rov and Howitt claim that Cloyne taught them “that the needs of the collective come before those of the individual.” I can only say that if the residents of Cloyne believe the need of the collective to indulge in “election-viewing parties, intramural soccer games, craft skill-shares and Wednesday-night yoga lessons” came before Gibson’s need for urgent medical attention, then Cloyne truly does deserve to be shut down.
Elijah Z. Granet is a first year political science major at UC Berkeley.