Formal group housing causes controversy

In hopes of improving and expanding living options on campus, Campus Life directs two housing committees in charge of this process—Formal Group Housing and Theme Housing.

These voting committees include two faculty members Associate Dean of the Faculty and Associate Professor of German, Ruth Lunt and Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Nancy Truesdell along with a combination of three different student groups: formal group house representatives, housing committee members, and members at large. Members at large chosen by LUCC who are not affiliated with any group involved with the formal group housing process. Members must be screened and approved by the entire council.

Formal group housing is subject to re-application every three years, whereas theme houses must re-apply annually. Formal group houses are reviewed every year that they are not up for re-application. These annual reviews are factored into decision-making during re-application. Houses must have full occupancy for all three terms to be considered serious candidates.

Groups applying for formal group housing require an eligibility application as well as the housing request. Formal group housing eligibility requires an LUCC recognized student organization to have been active for over three years. A complete list of these members along with active alumni is included in the application.

“Our decisions are based mostly on the quality of the applications. Outside of that, new house applications are largely measured by their potential and goals, while returning house applications are measured by the success they had in reaching their goals and how they plan to improve, “ said sophomore, Zach Ben-Amots.

Sankofa, a new formal group house on campus, aims to reach their goals of campus unity and diversity with their new position on the quad. The name itself traces back to the Akan language of Ghana, meaning “learning from your roots.”

“This is an appropriate name for the Black Student Union House,” said junior Brienne Colston, member of the Executive Board of BSU and future Sankofa House member. “We want to learn from our cultures and teach the explicit values that we have grown up with within the many cultures that we represent. We hope to enrich the campus with multiculturalism.”

Other new houses on campus include a new theme house called Global Health House.

However, in order to make room for new student run organizations, others end up losing their houses.

Sigma Phi Epsilon was among one of the organizations whose housing application was not accepted. This was due to a lack of occupancy.

“We submitted a full rooster,” senior Charles Grant-Dixon said. “But [Campus Life] eliminated people off that list because they contacted nationals for our [GPA] requirement policy.”

The National Sig-Ep Fraternity requires a 2.6 cumulative GPA. At Lawrence, Sig-Ep considers the term GPA rather than the cumulative one.

“National’s requirements are just guidelines and we can deviate as we see fit. We use term GPA that show improvement,” continued Grant-Dixon.

“We can’t have houses with vacancies, so the committee themselves deemed Sig-Ep ineligible to be considered for formal group housing,” Amy Uecke, Associate Dean of Students for Campus Life said.

The Housing Committee cannot place students into Formal or Theme Housing when they are not at maximum capacity. With an increase in students and the transformation of lounges into dorm rooms the need for Theme and Formal Housing has become more necessary.

The resulting housing decisions have fostered tension between groups on campus.

“I do think the tension is there but I do not think that tension is necessary,” Grant-Dixon said.

Consequently, these tensions have led to uniformed misconception about the housing selection process.

“One of the bigger misconceptions is that we somehow rigged the process, which is impossible. The greater Lawrence community just might not be aware of the housing process,” Colston said.

In the face of the controversy that surrounds housing selection every year, the Campus Life office continues to engage students in the process as much as possible. According to Uecke, students at Lawrence have a much larger say in housing than at most universities.