Of the six theme houses approved this term by Student Senate and the faculty Student Life Committee (SLC), four are returning houses. Two houses were rejected, and one rescinded its application.
However, another group will also be allotted a house as a candidate cultural house unofficially called the Queer Cultural House, under the conditions that they can fill the house. The house did not go through the traditional process, as they did not want to appear in competition with the similarly-named Queer & Ally theme house.
If the Queer Cultural House becomes full-status, it will become the first new cultural house in roughly 20 years.
“We’re looking for a place that is not just solely dependent on a couple of friends getting together and living in a house,” founder of Queer Union for Equality and Societal Transformation (QUEST) and junior Alex Davis said in explanation of why he and others decided to pursue cultural house status.
For the traditional houses, the process works like this: Theme housing groups submit an application, interview with the Senate Campus Life Committee and then have their idea voted on by the student body.
The application accounts for 10 percent of their score, with 45 percent more given for both the interview and vote. Depending on their score, they are or are not approved and are ranked for preference if they are competing for a house with other houses.
This year, a new house focused on food and teaching students to cook, Culinary House, topped that list with roughly 300 of 700 potential votes. Houses returning this year are Harambee House, focused on African culture and identity; French House, promoting use of the French language and study of French culture; Queer & Ally House (Q&A), a 24/7 safe-space on campus geared specifically toward the LGBT community on campus; and Here Be Dragons, a house focused on tabletop gaming.
Associate Dean of Students Craig Southern said the process went very smoothly in comparison to earlier years. In relation to French House, Southern also noted an increased interest on campus for language houses.
Also new this year is the Community Service and Engagement House which, unlike other theme houses, declined its house and will be given a suite in Four-Name. A similar “Community House” was attempted last year, but failed because of overlap with the college’s Community Service Center and Greek philanthropy. This house is more focused on work with nonprofit organizations.
The Queer Cultural House, alternately, collected signatures from students to show support for their initiative and was interviewed and approved by the Senate and SLC committees.
The house was initially presented as a “Queer Cultural Center,” but the title raised questions with the SLC. Professor of Dance Jennifer Smith was concerned that calling it a center would confuse students into thinking it was an institutional center created by the college, or imply that it was skirting cultural housing processes that require a year or two as a theme house before cultural house status.
QUEST felt somewhat slighted by the process, which resulted in them receiving a townhouse to use instead of a full house with a kitchen and space for events, which they had requested in their proposal.
“I’m not really sure what was considered and what wasn’t in housing us where we asked to be housed. I feel like that part was a little blown off,” Davis said. “We we just thrown into the townhouses on the whim.” Davis also expressed concern about safety of students, as other students have reported harassment on South and West Streets.
SLC also presented concern of overlap in regards to having two queer-related houses on campus. Davis argued that they had different purposes, as one was more focused on a 24/7 safe space while the other on queer/LGBT culture.
Non-approved houses were the Baseball and Cities Around the World Houses, the former rejected for lack of student interest and a narrow concept and the latter for being too similar to the permanent International House. Athletics House rescinded its application for unclear reasons.
Senate’s Campus Life Committee intends to present a proposal in Spring Term to increase the funds theme houses are provided for hosting events. They are required to host six events a year, two each term, with a $100 budget. The committee would like change that amount to that of an non-budgeted club, $500, and have the money come from the Student Senate discretionary fund. Currently the money comes from the Student Life budget.