Staff Editorial: Group Housing and Campus Culture

On May 5, group living houses were selected for the 2016-17 school year using the new group living legislation. The decisions made were found by many to be slightly disappointing because a lack of turnaround seen in the houses, and therefore a lack of change in campus culture.One cause of this was a lack of advertising on the part of the Residence Life Committee. Many students were unaware that they and their friends could just think of a theme, write a mission statement and apply for a house. The only two new additions to campus next year will be Cultural Food Club and Anchor Loft.

Details surrounding Anchor Loft and its final approval can be found on page 1 of this issue of The Lawrentian. Much of the criticism of the rubric used by the selection committee came about because of Anchor Loft’s application and the decisions related to it. One reason why the application was originally denied was because members of the selection committee felt the group seemed exclusive and lacked diversity. However, the rubric itself does not include diversity as a requirement for house applications. It is also hard to justify the original denial of Anchor Loft because we currently have four fraternity houses on campus—which are exclusive by definition —and are often not very diverse.

Swing Dance House will continue to be on the quad. Some feel that Swing House does not contribute positively to quad culture, that they do not open their doors often enough and that they also are exclusive. However, others believe that Swing House is a longstanding and unique organization at Lawrence and that it maintains a valuable and important space as the only substance-free house on the quad. However, if they are not opening their doors, most students do not have access to this substance-free space.

The majority of Swing House’s events, including weekly swing dances and “Dancing With the Profs,” do not even take place in the house: they are hosted in Warch, calling into question Swing Dance Club’s need for a house. Swing House is also known for is being an “email list house.” When housing reapplication comes around every year, Swing Dance Club will put any club member in the house to meet the minimum number of people needed, even if the involvement of the person is limited only to them being on the email list. It is possible that a house made up of members more dedicated to the club would be more likely to open its doors, as the house could be integral to fulfilling and spreading awareness of the organization’s mission, and not simply serve as a place for its members to live. This sort of change could have a positive effect on campus, but we will have to wait to see whether or not that is the case.

One thing that will definitely affect the climate, however, is the space that will be left by GLOW House. GLOW did not reapply for a house this year, leaving the LGBTQ+ community with no safe space outside of the Diversity Center. The house that is currently GLOW will be up for general lottery. Sinfonia and Greenfire will also not be in their current houses, but will both be in Colman Lofts. This dramatically cuts down on the potential venues and spaces for campus bands to practice and perform, which will stifle the campus’ music scene outside of the Conservatory.

Overall the new housing slate for the 2016-17 year will only be interesting on the Colman side of campus. Unfortunately, the Quad will not be seeing much change the next year. One part of the new group living legislation is that all compacts are either one or two years long. The intent of this is to allow for and encourage more housing turnover, but it is evident that it will take another couple years for students to change the campus’ culture—or at least its group housing.