New College House Themes Next Year

12 April 2002

By Stentor Danielson
Managing Editor

German, random acts of kindness and working with children will be among the themes of the programming offered by the College Houses next year. New community initiatives will also be implemented in houses and in the Newell Apartments.

Application numbers for the rotating theme houses were lower than expected. No groups applied for Cushman House and 118 Broad Street, though Class of 1934 House received a typical 4 applications, according to Director of Residential Life Carrie McLaughlin.

The Office of Residential Life looked to groups that had applied for but not gotten '34 House and spots in the Newell Neighborhood initiative to fill the open spots in Cushman and 118 Broad. Groups chosen had both initially applied for Newell. McLaughlin said that those groups were offered the houses because they had already expressed a desire to live together as a group.

Application numbers for the permanent theme houses, such as Ralph Bunche Peace and International Studies House and "The Loj" (currently Ecology House), were strong. Asia Interest House was the only house with a significant shortage of applicants, and all of the rooms have since been filled by late applicants, according to McLaughlin. She said there are still a few spots in La Casa Pan Latina (Spanish) and French/Italian House.

Interest in the neighborhood initiative housing in Newell, 104 Broad and 92 Broad was also high, McLaughlin said. Over 30 students were turned down from Newell.

These groups do not have themes as others do. McLaughlin said the office was "piloting these programs as a way to think about community differently at Colgate."

"It's not quite like living in the dorm but it's not exactly like living in an apartment either; it seems to be a fun mix," first-year Linda Chernak, who will be living at 104 Broad Street, said.

"I don't think I am going to join a soroity, so I figured this would be one of the only oppurtunities that I had to live in a housing environment," first-year Nancy Miller, who will also be living in 104 Broad, said. "Also, I am really really excited to live in a building where I know everyone and we are all mature enough to only pull the fire alarm when there is an actual fire. I have not appreciated any of the 14 cold nights that I have stood outside waiting for campus safety."

German House will be the theme of '34 House next year. First-year Will Shattuck said the group was brought together by an "interest in the German language and/or culture." He said they plan to work with Hamilton Central School, which has a German exchange student, and Hamilton College's German club to show films, bring guest speakers and hold other cultural events.

"We are all excited about living with each other in a community with a common interest in mind," Shattuck said.

Cushman House will be home to 16 students carrying out "random acts of kindness." The group would perform anonymous acts of kindness, such as taking out someone's trash or baking cookies, for people around campus. The group developed the idea from the Random Acts of Kindness Week sponsored by Colgate Christian Fellowship (CCF), as CCF president junior Emily Cunningham is part of the group.

Random Acts of kindness participant and junior Jill Ramsier said that, though Residential Life did not give the group a spot in Newell, "they still wanted us to be able to do it, because they liked the idea." She said that the group's theme had not fit with the groups who did get spots in Newell, as those groups all expressed an interest in social justice themes.

Working with children to "show them that learning can be fun" will be the theme of 118 Broad Street, junior Adam Weiss said. The group will go to local schools and bring kids to programs to teach them about a variety of topics. "We have people from every different department on campus ... psychology to physics to music, everything," Weiss said.

Weiss said his group had not originally thought about applying for a college house, but that it turned out that having a house with a backyard would be more suitable for the type of programs the group envisions.

Members of some groups who did not get houses were not happy with the decision-making process. First-year Erin Pulice said that her group, with the theme of "America," was competing against "all these politically correct, just what they wanted to hear" themes to get a spot in '34 House. She said her group planned to explore "the melting pot that makes up our country."

Some members of "Sacred Grounds," a group promoting religious diversity that made an unsuccessful bid for '34 House, were particularly upset because they felt that Residential life had led them to believe that their group could live in Cushman House. "They indicated strongly that this one thing was going to happen, then they did a complete 180," junior Jesse Roth said. She described Residential Life as "incompetent" and said that they did not answer questions about the process satisfactorily.

"I didn't think that Res Life had misled us at all," first-year Katherine Chewning, the coordinator of Sacred Grounds, said. "It wasn't a sure thing."

"Each group had their own reasons for not being selected," Residential Life Intern Ray Gonzalez said.

In the case of the Sacred Grounds group, the fact that many of the members had been accepted to live in other college houses, such as Bunche House, was a factor. Gonzalez said that these students had indicated a preference for the other houses. Roth said that she and others who had been accepted to other houses would have preferred to live in Cushman.

All groups applying for college houses has to submit an application and go through an interview with student and staff members of Residential Life. In the interview, Gonzalez said that Residential life wanted to "get a sense from them about how committed the group was to the theme ... how they hoped to impact the Colgate community and the Hamilton community."

Senior David Duong, the current Head Resident (HR) of the college houses, said he was looking for "a group of students who are serious about their theme." Pulice said that she thought Residential Life expected too much from groups in terms of programming.

The ability of the group to work together as a group was also an important factor. "It's a lot of work and a lot of responsibility to live in these houses," McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin pointed to the time frame for applications -- the Friday before Spring Break -- as one possible reason for the low number of applications. Several of the groups reported having trouble getting their groups together before the deadline.

"It didn't have a lot of time to get off the ground and recruit other people," first-year Katelyn Macrae of the Sacred Grounds group said

Gonzalez said that the difficulty of filling the house without sophomores, and with so many juniors abroad, may have deterred some groups from applying for Cushman or 188 Broad. Because these two houses do not have a Residential Advisor (RA), sophomores are generally not permitted to live there.

One of the major problems faced by groups applying to self-governing houses was getting the right number of people together. Shattuck said his group faced problems with people who would say they were interested in the house, then withdraw.

The obligatory co-op meal plan in college houses was also a concern for students applying to college houses. Ramsier said that the co-op had been a concern among some members of her group, who had been looking forward to the apartment-style dining they would have had in Newell. However, she said, "we went to visit it, and decided it was a really good idea."

Gonzalez, McLaughlin and Duong all pointed to increased involvement from the academic departments and Outdoor Education is important in strengthening the interest houses.

"I think everything's going to work out really really well," sophomore Sarah Gonzalez, who will be HR of the College Houses next year, said. "I'm really hopeful."

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