Formal group and theme housing an assest to campus and community

Deborah Levinson

After freshman year, Lawrence students have the option to live in several types of on-campus housing. If you’re an active member of an organization, part of a fraternity or just interested in something with enough other people, you have the opportunity to live in a house. And I think that is wonderful.
Houses are weird. As a freshman, I thought houses were strange – they’re on campus, some of them have a meal plan and the university maintains the facilities. They give off an air of exclusivity and it can seem hard to break the bubble surrounding these houses.
I would say that I had a negative view of group housing last year. I felt like the houses divided the student population. Some people just weren’t cool enough to live in a house.
Honestly, I had never been in any of the group houses on campus until I moved into mine. I’d never seen how a house works.
My view has certainly changed. I’m a little biased now, but living in a house really helped me to see all the positives of having formal and informal group housing on campus.
I imagined that the way in is through the right crowd. But, at least in my house, there’s an application process. You don’t have to be besties with the RLM to join the house. Being an active member of the organization is more important. Showing an interest and having something to contribute counts too.
Once you find your way in, houses are wonderful. I really enjoyed living in Plantz as a freshman, but the experiences that I’ve had in the house are a million times better.
My house is a family – a large and obnoxious family, but a family nonetheless. The physical living space holds a lot of importance. It brings us together in ways a residence hall never could. We have a bond as a house that I just never experienced in a dorm.
Unlike in a suite, it’s not like we’re all best friends. I had never met many of the members of the house before I moved in. They’re not all my age, and we all have different academic interests. The only time I see a lot of them is at house activities or just sitting around watching TV.
I have my own friends, as everyone else in the house does. There are different people in the house every week and I’ve met more people this year through my housemates and their friends than I did living in a dorm.
The house allows us to feel at home. We have a communal space shared by 11 rather than 100. It’s not only a space where we can all sit for a while; it’s also our space. I feel so much more comfortable inviting people over because I don’t need to have them in my personal area. There’s somewhere to sit besides the bed.
Aside from the wonderful atmosphere of a house, there are some other added bonuses. We have normal bathrooms. No stalls and no flip-flops in the shower. We also have a functioning kitchen with a kitchen table. I love to bake, and for me the convenience of the kitchen cannot be overemphasized.
It’s not like houses are great only for those who live in them. They contribute to the campus too. We do community service as a house. Co-op even has an open dinner every Friday night. To keep the house we have to volunteer. It’s good for us and for Appleton.
Basically I’m saying that I was wrong. I like that Lawrence is weird and has a swing dancing house and a meditation and mindfulness house. And I don’t think it creates an exclusive environment. There are random people in my house all the time – you’re welcome there anytime.
We’re a residential school, but not everyone thrives in a double room on a single gender floor. And our houses, which vary in size, location and focus, provide a supportive home for many different students.

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