Nestled between the back of the Conservatory and the greater expanses of Appleton suburbia are the theme group houses. More specifically, they are the first two houses on either side of North Union Street.
Because these houses are not the most visible part of campus and are unlike any other residence hall, they are sometimes a forgotten part of residential life. With the resources and space that having a house allows, theme group houses have a lot to offer campus but depend on the participation of the greater student body to take advantage of their space.
To obtain status as a theme group house, there is a thorough application process that makes sure that the groups uphold the qualifications set by the Residence Life Committee. In short, these qualifications are that the house represents a unique idea, that it benefits campus in some way and enhances liberal arts ideals. Theme houses are different from formal group houses — e.g., fraternity houses, Outdoor Recreation club — in that their status as a house lasts only one academic year.
Their counterparts, formal group houses, operate under a compact that allows them to be re-evaluated every four years. Thus, theme houses allow a variety of student groups to utilize the space of a house without necessarily the aim to become a permanent fixture on campus.
This year, three groups were selected out of the 15 that applied. The process of applying for a house includes a written application that shows how the group would uphold the conditions of having a house along with a recommendation from a faculty advisor.
After an application is received and considered, representatives from each of the group are asked to sit before a committee made up of LUCC members, Residence Life Committee members and general student body members. There they have a last chance to drive home why their group would be best fitted for theme group house status. After deliberation, the houses selected are announced.
This year, two out of the three houses are new to theme group houses. Artistic Expression House, Gaming House and Sinfonia — previously a formal group house — were selected to receive houses. Artistic Expression House realized the importance of having a space outside of class where “any student [can] have access to some artistic expression when they want in a welcoming and well-equipped space,” as their representative put it.
Gaming house representative Jacob Rousch expressed Gaming House’s goal: Providing “a central location where people could go and play games, without having to necessarily own them, or the gaming console or powerful computer necessary.” Sinfonia, a longstanding group on campus, continues its tradition of music-centered fraternity and service.
All houses are required at least one open-to-campus party per term. Along with this, the houses aim to be open to campus on a day-to-day basis. Said Steph Courtney, a resident of art house, “We try to make clear that new-comers and strangers are always welcome at our events, and give descriptions of the house location, but for students at a small school that are used to seeing only familiar faces, going to events with completely new groups of people can be intimidating.” While it may seem strange to walk into a house of people you don’t know, theme houses are most successfully utilized when a wide range of people use the space and resources provided.
Theme houses are a unique part of campus whose resources and space are not always utilized to the fullest. With an open door policy, theme houses can foster intimacy and exploration outside the classroom. New groups are welcome to apply every year. Groups interested in applying to be a theme house, mark your calendars. May 2nd will be the first informational meeting about theme houses.