Campus / News / Student Senate / October 15, 2014

Theme housing evaluated

The permanent cultural Eco House is located at 675 South West Street. (Williams Shen/TKS)

The permanent cultural Eco House is located at 675 South West Street. (Williams Shen/TKS)

When Senate’s Campus Life committee announced its recommendations for theme housing last winter with the exclusion of Harambee House, fellow senators and students asked how the highly popular house ended up out of the loop. Looking back in the new year, Senate is considering what exactly happened and if changes to the process should be made.

“It seemed to have been an issue of miscommunication between Campus Life committee, members of Harambee house and the faculty committee in charge of cultural houses,” Senate Vice President and senior Robert Turski said.

Cultural houses and theme houses possess one distinct difference from one another. Cultural houses are permanent houses focused on a culture or topic, such as Asian Cultural House, Casa Latina and Eco House. Theme houses are required to host six theme-related events through the year, two per term, and must propose their idea to Senate’s Campus Life committee every winter for establishment or retention of their house.

However, a subset of theme houses has existed for the past two years called a long-standing theme house, which grants two-year status to houses looking to gain permanent status. Harambee and Queer & Ally House earned this status, but were required to reapply in the 2013-2014 year.

Long-standing status created confusion over the status of Harambee House.

“There was a misconception Harambee was a cultural center,” sophomore Tevin Liao, current Campus Life Chair and member of the committee last year, explained. “They were under the impression they did not have to reapply. We notified them that they had to reapply, but the contact we were given was not an accurate contact. As a result of that they turned in their applications late and the application was not strong.”

Senate President and senior Hiba Ahmed lays the initial blame for the problems on a lack of Senate records.

“I don’t think there are standing records of theme housing of the past, or even currently. I think it would be great if we could sit down and get all of those details completely stored electronically. Better storage of the data collected on the houses [and] the standings whether it be theme, long-standing [or] cultural will all really help that process.”

Selection processes for theme housing is divided half and half between the applications and interviews conducted with the house candidates and a campus-wide vote to gauge interest in each house. So while Harambee House performed well in the vote, the Campus Life committee was dissatisfied with the other 50 percent.

“We realized that we as a committee, although Harambee has a positive standing with the campus, we could not let them slide,” Liao said, citing a poor application, too few members signed up for the house and lack of attendance at at interview as reasons for their rejection.

Ahmed envisions a more consistent plan of how to operate house selections in the coming winter to avoid future problems.

“I think there was a lot of confusion year by year under different chairs for how the process for theme housing will be taken care of. I think if we get that information out as soon as possible … people will know how it’s going to go and then we can follow those [guidelines] as strictly as possible.”

Ahmed also hopes to give candidates more time to state their case for their house,

“I know right now there is just one interview process, and I just don’t think that’s enough.” She encourages candidates to table and poster for their houses so campus is aware the process is occurring and so they may rally support behind their ideas.

Theme housing starts anew in the first week of winter term. Liao hopes to host an event soon so interested groups may discover what is permissible as a theme house and how applying works to make this year’s process smoother and more satisfactory for candidates and Senate members alike.

Callie Rouse
Callie Rouse graduated in 2017 as a international relations major and double minor in creative writing and history. She has been involved in journalism since her sophomore year in high school and worked for The Knox Student for four years. She worked as a News Editor her sophomore to senior years. During her freshman year Callie served as Student Government Reporter.

Tags:  harambee hiba ahmed Robert Turski senate Student Senate theme housing

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