Campus / News / February 2, 2011

Special Interest Housing gets a facelift

Special Interest Housing, or Theme Housing as it is more popularly known, has often caused controversy as the time draws closer for groups of students to fill out applications and figure out housing for next year. But Residential Quality of Life Chair sophomore Katie Wrenn hopes to avoid some of the complaints and problem that plague the process each year.

“I’m envisioning a system that can hold the houses or the groups accountable,” Wrenn said.

Contrary to the rumor that theme housing will be abolished, Wrenn has hope that she can re-invigorate the system to realize what it is meant to be.

“We had discussed [abolishing theme housing at] the beginning of this term. We took the discussion to Senate, and Senate’s overall statement was that we are not going to abolish theme housing, but we are going to be more selective about who we let have a house.”

Two of the longest standing houses, Asian Cultural House and Queer & Ally House, have weathered this process numerous times and are both now in the process of becoming permanent houses.

In previous years, once a theme house was approved, Senate had virtually no control or assurance of the fulfillment of follow-through with the mission statement provided by the houses’ participants. The plan Wrenn would like to enact would remedy that problem.

“What we’re looking at is having [the groups] sign a contract that would say, ‘By signing this, [we] pledge to have at least two programs a term that would benefit the Knox community.’”

Similar provisions have been placed on the housing application before, but Wrenn also plans to change how groups are selected to receive a theme house.

“If [groups] actually hold events and really create a space for people to use on campus, I think that would be fabulous,” Wrenn said. “Hopefully this year, with a little more rigorous process, we’ll get some really great candidates.”

But just because Wrenn can assign half a dozen houses does not mean that she will, if there aren’t enough quality groups to fill them.

“If we don’t, that doesn’t mean we’re going to give them a house,” Wrenn said. “We’d rather put that in general lottery and allow other people to have the opportunity to be in a house rather than give people who aren’t going to put [on] events in a house.”

Applications for Special Interest Housing are available from Student Senate.

Andrew Polk

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