Because of its danger, Cloyne has to go

Phoenix Delman/Staff

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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.

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  • DTR

    This is a very inaccurate article and I’m disappointed that this was allowed to be published. If you saw me on campus, you would never take me as a Cloyne resident, but indeed, I did live in the house last semester. There are lots of very good people who live in the home, and who absolutely help you make good decisions. I never felt pressured to engage in any substance abuse, and although some people in the house do, that is true in any sample of 150 UC Berkeley students. Most of the incidents you hear about at Cloyne happen during out-of-house parties where most attendees don’t live at the house. Also, how can a first year student write about shutting down an entire cooperative house that he has never visited?!

    • Especially if he lives in a cardboard box!!!

  • Noname

    This article sucks. Filled with ill-formed notions about Cloyne’s culture, and how the cooperatives work in general. Unbelievable – daily cal does it again.

  • Spot on, Thea. Why is a first-year who never lived in the co-ops even writing about this situation?

  • Seriously. This article has the credibility of Fox News.

  • Guest

    I see that you’re looking for a career at Fox News, sir.

  • Elle

    John’s drug use was pretty extreme before he moved into Cloyne. And any/most college student housing is guilty of overdoses, sexual assaults, cases of violence and hospitalizations. You can shut it down, move new students in, make it smaller, only allow international students to reduce the chances of those things happening, but students like John Gibson will still find their niche, and they may still be surrounded by other students who are too scared to call 911. But they will probably not be living somewhere that has been under the university’s scrutiny for years, so you may never hear about it.

  • Anthony Fossati

    Nice that the author “feel[s] a responsibility to do whatever it takes to protect [his] friends and peers.” How many others have suffered this fate outside the co-ops? John Gibson was also a UC Berkeley student at the time of his self-induced moment of stupidity.

    Come on, Elijah. Let’s do whatever it takes. Let’s shut the doors on the entire UCB — which has far more infamy as a den of drug use and otherwise anti-social / anti-societal behavior & beliefs than the co-ops or Cloyne ever could.

  • Mena

    Thank you Elijah, even though you were a bit hard (remember nothing is black and white) it seems that you truly care for your fellow students.
    Though these tragic incidents you mention happened over 4 years ago, the so called “drug-culture” is still there, no Cloyne member has yet denied that. There have been small incidents related to substance abuse in the past year, they just have not been as catastrophic as the ones from years before. Moving along this same path, it only takes a slight mistake for something to go terrible wrong. A drastic change needs to happen. From what I’ve heard, if this proposal of substance-free house passes, about 50 members will be ask to re-located for Fall ’14, the rest would be graduating or moving out for the summer as their original plan. This case is not black and white; there are members in Cloyne that even though they know of this drug-use environment, they are not part of it, thus with no fault of their own, they feel like they are being kicked out; for those members all BSC community offers camaraderie and support. However, for the good of its current and future members, Cloyne house needs a re-birth, a start up from scratch where a new culture of substance free can truly be obtain.

    • Neal

      I’m a member if Cloyne. When I moved into the coops last semester , the BSC offered no substance-free or zero-tolerance housing (and still doesn’t).. I joined Cloyne because it’s the most accepting of sober kids. It’s a bit of a catch-22 to say that I wouldn’t be able to return. Stereotyping 150 people isn’t fair, we expect better from the BSC.

      • Mena

        I specifically mentioned, “there members in Cloyne that even though they know of this drug-use environment, they are not part of it, thus with no fault of their own, they feel like they are being kicked out”. I’m not saying every single person in Cloyne uses drugs, what I’m saying is that this culture exists and it’s highly tolerated. However, It would be hard to determine who does and who doesn’t use them. What needs to be understood is that because of legal ramifications and Cloyne’s history, it would be catastrophic for all BSC members if another substance related injury occurs there (insurance rates rising exponentially,thus everyones rent going up, not to mention the health of the injured member). By an outer community, Cloyne is perceived as a Sanctuary for drug use (even though it may not be true), but this is the way that it is perceived. BSC executives have decided to take extreme measure to change that perception. It is a huge change, and we as BSC members support those who feel they are being kicked out with no fault of their own, but we welcome you into any other house you may transfer to.I personally still agree with our Cabinet proposal. I truly believe that, if it passes, this change is for the better good.

        • Neal

          “It would be too hard to determine who does and who doesn’t use them.” Stereotyping and making generalizations will always be easier; talking to and trying to understand someone will always be harder. I’m saying stereotyping is wrong, and that this shouldn’t be acceptable in our community.

          • Mena

            I respect your position. It seems like one of us is failing to see the bigger picture, either you or I. At this point, we agree to disagree.

  • apple orchard

    This article doesn’t address any of the reasons that the BSC has proposed Cloyne’s restructuring, and for this reason the writer comes off extremely uninformed. The purpose of the proposal is to alleviate the BSC of legal liability, to ensure they will be able to renew their leases with the university, and to protect their insurance rates. The cabinet has expressly stated that they are not “taking action against the residents” as Granet ignorantly puts it, they are merely trying to protect the organization from future issues that might put the entire BSC at risk.

    To call the proposal “well-intentioned” completely obscures from these motives. The BSC is no more concerned with preventing substance abuse and overdoses than it’s ever been – it’s leaders simply and reasonably want to cover their asses through structural changes that can hold up in court. Neuroscience and psychology studies have proven time and again that zero-tolerance and prohibition policies only exacerbate problems relating to substance abuse, and that education and counseling are the ideal ways to combat these issues. The content of the lawsuit itself refers to Cloyne’s inadequacies in “adopting and implementing effective drug educational programs”, something the BSC has flat out refused to do because they feel it will make them more legally liable and force them to pay higher insurance rates. This proposal is not about “danger” at Cloyne, it’s simply an example of a multi-million dollar corporation attempting stay afloat.

    Finally, to say that Gibson “ha[d] his life utterly destroyed” strips him, an intelligent adult, of all responsibility for his actions. His housemates did not force feed him a lethal dose of drugs against his will. John Gibson’s tragic incident was primarily a result of his own poor decisions, as well as BSC-wide policies that refuse adequate drug education and make its members afraid to contact the authorities.

  • anon

    I have to agree with the other sentiments that the Daily Cal really dropped the ball here in allowing this to go to print- if the other side is presented it should appear much more well-researched, thought out, and less aggressively toned. This comes across as pompous, rude, and uninformed. I’d like a statement from the editors as to why they let this go to print.

  • Milo

    Wow, things don’t change that much. The houses change, the students change but it’s the same thing as Barrington, all over again. Look it up boys and girls! Yeah, ok, Cloyne is really Barrington II. Really look it up..and hey, you kids get off my lawn!

    I was a co-oper and had a great time. Wacky, weird stuff happened but also life changing and cool stuff. I still have friends from back in the day, perhaps one of its long lasting wonders.

    Here’s one thing I know, co-ops are great but when they get past a certain number/size, they can become difficult to supervise and manage. So you have “difficult to manage”, run by students and drug culture, and you get Cloyne, just like Barrington. None of these are really bad by themselves isolated, although perhaps unpleasant or even vile. It’s the combo of these, the sum, that’s at issue here, right? Well break it in combination as well.

    Here’s what I would do BSC; besides turning over the house, reduce its size to under 100. Use the space for something else, perhaps a small and professionally staffed hostel/student hotel.

    Of course you’ll do what you want, so have fun!

  • Anonymooose

    As a member of a BSC house (non-Cloyne) there are some embarrassing themes from Cloyne members in this article, notably:
    commenting on ‘supposed ‘drug culture” – This is something that was also notable in the board meeting- the indignation from Clones when accused of there being drug problems, when it’s common knowledge that there are drug dealers and hard-drug users currently at Cloyne… sure, they weren’t in the house 4 years ago, but it’s still a culture that hasn’t been eradicated.

    commenting on ‘bias’ – Most people in the co-ops can see that the proposal against Cloyne is a rational, positive decision for the survival of the BSC and safety of students… the only counter-argument offered by Clones is ‘oh no my house, I live here, it has pretty paintings’… in the overly-dramatic Save Cloyne Vimeo there were a lot of slow sweeping shots of murals but no solid solutions offered.

    • Brenna Fitzpatrick

      Yo, strawman much? Your ‘common knowledge’ is the rumor mill; if you were at Board, you must have heard Kim say in the past year there hasn’t been a single in-house complaint of drug use and any other complaints turned out to be unsubstantiated allegations. Now somehow in her head that means “there is a drug culture at Cloyne,” but…..yeah…………….

      And I dont think most BSC members agree that this is for the “safety of students.” In fact, it has been very explicitly stated that this proposal is likely to decrease liability despite quite possibly increasing risk. The BSC is putting students lives on the line, and they know it, and they dont seem to give a shit. How would you respond if you and all your housemates were kicked out of your house in response to an incident that occurred before any of you lived there so that the BSC could enact a policy that actually increases the likelihood of a culture of secrecy, non-responsiveness and fatal ODs so that when someone does OD in one of their houses again (and they will, given the BSC’s abhorrent policies surrounding substance-use) they can throw their hands up in the air and say “but look, we tried! see? we tried! we tried!” even though this is actually prime example of the organization, once again, actively avoiding adopting – even considering adopting – substance-use policies and programs THAT ACTUALLY REDUCE RISK. Substance-use is an issue that has plagued the coops (and all student housing organizations) for decades and will continue to plague it so long as it has purely punitive substance-use policies; this is the BSC trying to look like its trying, and some people aren’t buying it…But I guess you can mishear that reaction as “oh no my house I live here it has pretty paintings” if you try really really really hard :) :)

    • LA_Momma

      2002 Clone here. You are spot on – Cloyne is a great place that was corrupted by drug dealers and hard-drug users. I remembewr the hydroponics; special dinners with booze bought with general funds; and how the dealers mysteriously disappeared whenever folks got sick from the brownies. Personally, I didn’t care what students did with their own money; but I found it offensive that my rent was going to subsidize drugs/alcohol for kids. But it’s not just Cloyne’s fault – believe me, Cal’s administration played deaf and dumb when I complained. I am so sorry for all the families who lost their children to the greed – yes, greed, of co-opers in name only.

  • Grayson Chao

    I want to start by saying that I do not, nor have I ever, lived in a BSC coop; that said, this newspaper is neither a political organ nor a gossip rag, and (despite Elijah Granet’s contribution) it should stay that way. This article is both factually inaccurate and obviously biased. For one, the Save Cloyne website contains mostly pictures of sports teams, musicians and bands, murals and artwork – in other words, the very culture that Mr. Granet seems interested in deriding. It is telling that that Mr. Granet, a political science major, thinks of “watching the election” as an indulgence while preaching about “feeling the need to take action”.

    Granet is also determined to paint what has been a COLLABORATIVE process between the BSC and Cloyne leadership as somehow adversarial. “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.” (emphasis my own.) What interest would this author have in deliberately portraying a process which has been both amiable and democratic as neither? Or is it just poor journalism?

    I propose that Elijah Z. Granet be fully transparent about his motivations for writing this article, and the process of research that he (presumably) went through to complete it; the 150 students whom he seems to have conveniently forgotten deserve as much.

  • Guest

    Ditto what everyone else is saying. This opinion piece sounds like a high school-esque speech from Debate/MUN/Mock Trial/. If you weren’t in any of these orgs last year, I’ll buy you a six pack. . .of warm milk, Mr. Granet.

    I mostly find fault with all the lumping of students into one boat (a craft with a long history). BSC has already reigned Cloyne in considerably in recent years. This all just seems to be political fallout from past problems, rekindled by the recent settlement, and BSC’s fears of their insurance rates going up.

    Students and their self-government — in education, life and residence — is a winning cause, and should not be spoiled because of a few bad apples.

  • Ro

    I just find this argument as lopsided and uninformed. The author focuses way too much on the collective
    responsibility towards the individual, while refraining from critiquing the direct individual actions and choices that led to these tragic cases. If Cloyne were a daycare facility you might have had an argument, but at a certain point, as adults we’re responsible for our own lives.

    I simply don’t get your logic: sympathy for hard drug users, but no sympathy for well over one hundred non-hard drug using students who have no direct connection with the incidents mentioned, but our now being made to bear the blame?

  • DLG

    This is upsetting that this was published. I understand that the Daily Cal prints people’s opinions, but nothing about this article even makes sense.

    It is upsetting that a space is being made for this person to appropriate the misfortunes of two individuals whom he likely does not know. This does nothing for anyone and I find the fact that this article was published to be extremely offensive and think that the Daily Cal should pay more attention to what it publishes in terms of facts and content. You would not run a piece by an author who slammed another group on campus with unfounded and offensive allegations, would you?

  • Brenna Fitzpatrick

    So does the Daily Cal just not fact check Op Eds? This is so full of sensationalist misinformation, the editors should be embarrassed.

  • Guest

    I find your hostility and lack of research disturbing, so I’ll keep this short. As a current member of Cloyne, and as a member who has lived there for nearly the past two years I’d like to echo Rob’s sentiment that literally no members that were present for John Gibson’s drug issue currently live in Cloyne, and that you think that we should be punished for a few people’s misjudgments that happened while you were just starting high school and most of us were only half way through I propose that you look at what you’ve accomplished in four years, and what you hope to accomplish in four more, and decide that change did not, can not, and will not happen.

  • Layla Oghabian

    Coming from a first year student at Berkeley, you clearly have no idea what Cloyne culture represents. Especially coming from a political science major you should analyze all aspects of the situation instead of inserting your flawed bias. Granted there have been incidents of drug abuse within the Co-ops but there have also been similar problems in the dorms and the frats. This ‘drug culture’ is not unique to Cloyne, it is a world problem and the answer is not to spread it out onto the streets by evicting current Cloyne residents. Rather, there should be educational programs and support groups to help aid the issue. By directly addressing the issue as oppose to earasing it, the BSC and the greater Berkeley community can tackle an issue that plagues the world and hopefully lead as an example. Cabinets proposal will only worsen the supposed ‘drug culture’ and move it behind closed doors. Then we would really have a problem under our belts, more overdoses will occur and less drug education will be shared.

  • Robert Seaney

    RE: “Yet in those situations [Gibson, Hendeya, etc.], the same residents do not want to be held accountable.”

    You use the term “same residents”. Please note that not a single person who lived in the house during the Gibson tragedy lives in the house currently. The same goes for every other troublesome incident in Cloyne’s history. In fact, there have been no such incidents in the past four years; nothing since anyone living in the house even entered college, much less moved into Cloyne.

    I hope you realize the significance of your error. There is, quite literally, NO “same residents” to speak of. Evicting the current membership of Cloyne is not a measure with any preventative utility; it cannibalizes one house and 150 young people, for the sake of nominal pretext and minimizing insurance expenses. I’d encourage you to apply a little more thought — and a lot more research — to your next opinion editorial.

  • Thea Brown

    Have you ever even been to Cloyne? Ever? Do you realize not a single person at Cloyne right now lived in the house in 2010? Let alone 2006? You have no right to put out in the world the notion that any of my housemates would out “craft-skill shares” over the life of another human being. You haven’t even met any of us. Thanks for misrepresenting my entire household.