Cloyne Court to become substance-free; only 1 current member may return in fall

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Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

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Gathered in the common room of the Rochdale Village Co-op just after 5:30 a.m. Friday morning, the Berkeley Student Cooperative Board of Directors and some of its members voted to convert one of the largest cooperative houses in the country, Cloyne Court, into a substance-free academic theme house and prohibit all but one of the house’s current and former members from living in the residence in the fall.

The 903-449 vote marks the culmination of a month of intense discussion among BSC members on the future of Cloyne and more than 10 1/2 hours of stirring conversation at the meeting, which began at 7 p.m. Thursday. About 200 people showed during the course of the meeting, including many BSC members who individually cast votes for the proposals instead of having their board member vote in their stead.

After the announcement of the vote, some members of Cloyne embraced one another through tears. Shortly after the meeting adjourned, many members of Cloyne — who often refer to themselves as Clones — joined in a group hug and chanted in the middle of the street outside Rochdale.

“I was expecting the result that we got, but at the same time, during the middle of the meeting, I was hoping that things would go in Cloyne’s favor,” said Karina Rodriguez, who used to live in Cloyne but now lives in Rochdale. “I’m still hopeful that Cloyne will keep fighting.”

Two major amendments to the proposal, announced in its original iteration by the BSC Executive Cabinet on Feb. 13, were discussed at the meeting. An amendment to the repopulation clause allows one current resident of the house to return to Cloyne in the fall. Another allows for the preservation of 31 murals — selected by the Cloyne members and reviewed by the cabinet — along with a prohibition of painting over any murals in Cloyne’s common space unless they specifically reference drugs.

Originally, the proposal would have prohibited all current and former Clones from returning to the house in the fall and did not include any language about exempting any murals from being painted over.

The one Clone who may return in the fall, UC Berkeley junior Neal Lawton, said he approached cabinet and Cloyne leadership at one of their recent meetings and was able convince them of his commitment to a substance-free environment.

“It’s significant and symbolic for a lot of people that at least an inkling of the last generation of Clones still survives,” Lawton said. “I hope to participate in helping to build a new one, regardless of whoever ends up in the house next semester.”

These amendments followed the board’s Feb. 28 decision to extend the voting deadline from March 6 to March 13 with the stipulation that Cloyne leadership and BSC’s executive cabinet meet at least twice before the vote. Over the week leading up to the vote, BSC President Michelle Nacouzi and Cloyne House Manager Shannon Levis met multiple times in addition to these two meetings.

The cabinet originally announced its controversial proposal last month, after the settlement of a lawsuit against BSC over winter break. The suit was filed by the mother of former UC Berkeley student and Cloyne resident John Gibson, who sustained brain damage after overdosing at the house in 2010. The BSC cabinet proposed its plan in response to the suit’s allegations that the BSC and Cloyne in particular fostered a dangerous and drug-tolerant environment.

“We didn’t propose this plan for no reason. We did it because cabinet feels the organization is facing a risk,” Nacouzi said during the presentation of the BSC Executive Cabinet’s proposal. “Substance-free is bold and is something we haven’t done in the past. We’ve revised our policies and tried to make them stronger, but we haven’t seen the big improvement we’re looking for.”

The cabinet’s plan was hotly contested by many BSC members, especially Clones who felt excluded from the democratic process, because the cabinet did not include them in the drafting of their proposal. Many Clones also argued that the house’s culture has changed since the 2010 overdose, pointing to the fact that none of the house’s current members lived at the residence at the time of the incident.

Cloyne leadership responded to the cabinet’s proposal with its Save Cloyne campaign, which included a website where many current and former Clones posted testimonials about their experiences in the house. They also suggested multiple counterproposals that many Clones said would better address the issue of substance abuse, a problem many BSC members feel is prevalent across all college campuses, and invited every house in BSC over for dinner to discuss the future of Cloyne’s culture.

Cloyne’s final counterproposal, the Affordable Education Themed House Proposal, was also presented at the meeting. But the board, and in some cases, house members, voted against the counterproposal, enabling the vote on the cabinet’s proposal. If Cloyne’s proposal had been passed, a vote on the cabinet’s proposal would not have taken place since the two plans directly opposed each other.

During the meeting, BSC members spoke about the possibility of voting on Cloyne’s future at a general membership meeting, although it is uncertain whether Clones or anyone else will pursue this potential option in the wake of the vote.

Chloee Weiner covers campus life. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @_chloeew .

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  • kr

    I remember moving in and thinking that Cloyne was a scary place, but then I grew to love the place for its free spirit, and now I realize that it was home to me. For me it turned out to be the place where I met my close friends at Cal and where I felt supported in a difficult time of my life. It hurts to see it “purged” even though I know a new community will form there. I, like many of my friends there, never did drugs while living there and hardly “partied” all the time. The truth of the matter is that Cloyne is huge and it is student run, and students are given freedom (the same happens in all the other coops), and some students don’t know how to handle that.

  • CommanderBond

    It’s about damn time. This place was an eyesore when I was in college and it’s still just as ridiculous today, apparently. I have nothing against people who want to ruin their own lives with drugs, but Cloyne was always out of control. I went to a few parties there and saw rotting food, rats, and drugs were everywhere. The only good thing I ever saw at Cloyne was Green Day in 1993.

  • Hank Chapot
    • bgal4

      In the mid 80s UCB commissioned a study reviewing excessive underage drinking at frats, the Alumni association made sure the report never saw the light of day. Recently Students for a Safer Southside, SFSS, and Berkeley Alcohol Policy Advocacy Coalition brought a set of ordinances and enforcement program forward to the City of Berkeley. The DOE rewarded SFSS with a substantial grant to evaluate this promising program, the grant was returned when it became painfully obvious that both UCB and the CoB would not act and implement best practices in regulating alcohol sales and access/ availability to minors.

    • Sherman Boyson

      If you say please, I will.

  • John Hennessy

    In addition to the amendments discussed above, there were some additional ones passed as part of cabinets proposal…

    From my recollection, this is what they were:
    - All public murals are to be preserved (except the ones that must be removed due to structural changes during summer renovations) and the new residents will be able to vote on which ones refer to “drug culture”
    - The ban on current and previous clones will be lifted after 3 years
    - Board will also discuss and vote on saving 3 specific in-room murals at the board meeting on April 17th

    • calalum

      The 3 year ban is effectively a permanent ban considering that most students enter the co-ops in their sophomore year.

      • Sherman Boyson

        There are many students who take more than 4 years at Cal, so not permanent for everyone.

  • Elijah Z. Granet

    I am very gladdened by this. Now, it is time to investigate related issues in other coops and fraternities and apply similarly harsh penalties to them.

    • disqus_6YcQLVlAyH

      You’ve bought it this time buster!
      I’m calling your national office!
      I’m going to revoke your charter!
      If you wise guys try one more thing, one more, I’ll kick you out of this college!
      NO MORE FUN OF ANY KIND!

    • calalum

      “I am very gladdened by the fact that 148 students are being evicted from their home for something they had nothing to do with”

      • mtaysic

        Having lived at another co-op nearby I can attest that some of these students are just plain oblivious to how much damage drugs can do. It’s a whole mindset that thrives there.

    • AnOski

      You’re talking double standards. Plenty of fraternities have been shut down over the years. But I’m surprised that a Clone would go so far as to act vindictively against other co-ops.

      • Elijah Z. Granet

        I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m not a member of Cloyne, but rather a strong advocate for shutting it down (I had an op-ed in the Daily Cal on the subject). I wasn’t making a point about double standards; I want to see dangerous frats and coops (Cloyne among them) shut down.

    • ahdinosaur

      Cloyne is full of human beings who are probably more similar to you than you think. if you have strong feelings about us, you should come to dinner any day at 7pm and talk with us about how you feel. :) there is no question there are substance abuse and mental health issues at college campuses, but i don’t believe the correct solution is to avoid trying to provide real support for the issue and instead demonize a group of mostly unrelated people.