Quiet housing implemented for fall 2010 semester

Following the release of the Neighborhood Review Committee (NRC) recent report, Campus Life announced Thursday that quiet housing will be implemented beginning next fall, with West College, which has 54 beds, designated for that purpose. Students in quiet housing will be required to abide by quiet hours from at least 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day. Applications for quiet housing are due today, and the room draw will take place next Wednesday.

The quiet housing option is the first recommendation to be implemented from part one of the NRC report. Other recommendations made by the NRC in its report include eliminating the room-draw penalty for students who enter the neighborhood lottery, allowing first-years to choose neighborhood affiliation through a lottery at the end of the year, strengthening the Baxter Fellows program, restructuring the Neighborhood Governance Boards (NGBs), reimagining the collaboration between All Campus Entertainment (ACE) and NGBs, further examining the co-op system and implementing a gender-neutral housing policy. Part two of the report is due for release after spring break.

Quiet housing

According to the NRC report, 10 percent of the 368 student surveyed in January said they would sign up for quiet housing or substance-free housing if it were available. “We believe that quiet housing achieves most of the goals of substance-free housing with a minimum of intrusion into students’ lives,” the report recommended.

Quiet housing has received mixed reviews from students, with some apprehensive about its implications and others excited about its possibilities. Elliot Schrock ’11 is concerned that designating West as a quiet dorm will detract from the community identity that neighborhoods aim to foster. “I lived there last year, and it was amazing the way it was,” Schrock said. “It has a wonderful, enormous common room which is perfect for large parties and just plain meeting people who live in your dorm. I knew only a couple people when I started living there last year, but by the end of the year, I had a completely new and extremely close- knit friend group.”

Using West as the quiet housing dorm also minimizes the housing choices of students in Spencer Neighborhood, who are now left to choose among Spencer, Brooks, Morgan, Mark Hopkins and Bryant. “I’ve been here almost three years now, and I want to have a nice place for my senior year,” Schrock said, adding that he had intended to live in West. “The chances of that have now been significantly diminished.”

Students have also expressed concern about last year’s Spencer Neighborhood overflow, in which some sophomores were forced to choose leftover rooms in other neighborhoods and in Dennett basement. “How will students be shuffled around in the short term without having mixed neighborhood houses – which would make cluster unity that much more difficult to accomplish?” Stefan Ward-Wheten ’11 said. “These are not insurmountable issues, but I would like to see the NRC or the administration thinking about them and telling the student body exactly what is going to happen.”

Not all students, however, have primarily negative feelings about the decision. Allen Lum ’12 admitted that designating an entire Spencer building for quiet housing will affect housing choices, but said that designating quiet housing for students who want it is essential to create a welcoming environment for everyone at the College. “I feel that since the people who want the quite housing would most likely be the students who would study a lot, it should be a location near the library, so West automatically suits those needs,” Lum said.

Other students noted that West had, prior to the neighborhoods system, been dominated by seniors working on theses. “Designating West as quiet housing is returning it to its pre-neighborhood status,” Will Slack ’11 said. “There are some people on this campus who have a hard time functioning with a lot of noise. I think setting aside one house with quiet hours starting at 9 or 10 p.m. makes sense.”

Chris Sheahan ’13 said he plans on applying for quiet housing next year so he can get more work done and have a quiet place to be after athletic practices. “I would like to have the option of quiet housing so I could get stuff done and get better academically,” Sheahan said. “A lot of campuses have non-alcoholic places where you can choose to go, and there’s special housing for something like that. I feel like this is as close as I can get to that.”

In contrast, Katrina Tulla ’11 said that while she understands the desire for quiet housing, students need to learn to adapt to their given environments. “When you go out into the real world you won’t always be able to decide who your neighbors are, so why should you not deal with these situations in college?” she said. Tulla believes that all students should be able to vote on the location of the quiet housing as the housing will only benefit a limited number of students. She also expressed concern with possible self-segregation of students, and suggested that instead of designating an entire building for quiet housing, the College should instead designate a floor of a building or two for such a purpose.

Restructuring NGBs

The NRC final report also addressed the structural awkwardness of the NGBs, which currently exist in limbo between house-level programming by Baxter Fellows and campus-wide programming by ACE. “Instead of effectively promoting meaningful neighborhood-level community building, the large budgets and board sizes have encouraged the NGBs to program on a campus-wide level, often conflicting with or duplicating the work of student groups like [ACE] or administrative offices like Campus Life,” the report stated.

The NRC suggested that the NGBs be replaced by neighborhood councils comprising a president, who has financial control over neighborhood funds and serves as a neighborhood representative to CC; a program coordinator, who will work specifically on neighborhood-level events and function as a representative from ACE; and the Baxter Fellows from the residences within the neighborhood.

The College’s NGBs met with Dean Merrill the day before the NRC report was released. According to Zach Padovani ’11, president of Dodd Neighborhood, the news about eliminating so many positions came as a shock. Padovani noted that discussion on the NGBs had been discouraged at the open forums regarding the neighborhoods. “It kind of surprised me that they changed the structure of the board,” Padovani said. “Neighborhood governance should be in the hands of CC, the neighborhoods and the student body.”

Currently, Dodd’s NGB has a lot more members than other NGBs might because the geography of Dodd allows for plenty of interaction in planning close-knit events. As of last fall, Dodd’s NGB consisted of a president, a vice president, two minority concerns representatives, a social chair, a student/faculty coordinator, a first-year representative, a JA representative, a publicity director, a community engagement chair and a faculty advisor. “We need all the people we have,” Padovani said. “We use our Baxter Fellows and we use all the members of our board.”

Padovani also expressed concern regarding the responsibilities of Baxter Fellows. “We have trouble getting a Baxter Fellow for every building, and getting them to fulfill the roles in their contracts,” he said. “If someone is having trouble filling their positions, why give even more responsibility?”

Instead, Padovani proposes “having the social chair attend ACE meetings, giving a portion of the neighborhood budgets back to ACE, making it understood that neighborhoods are responsible for small-scale events, and making the Baxter Fellows responsible for house events.” He believes that neighborhoods should have the option to preserve their boards if they so desire. “Because neighborhoods are so geographically different, they are never going to be able to have the same positions,” he said.

Under the new NRC report’s suggestions, Baxter Fellows would “serve as leaders within their own houses and within the larger neighborhood. This will require Baxter Fellows to balance a dual role of working within their house to build community while at the same time coordinating with other members of the neighborhood council to build the larger neighborhood community between houses.”

“We must improve Baxter Fellow positions,” Liz Jimenez ’12 said. “But they cannot be equivalent to JAs [Junior Advisors], because there is not the same atmosphere, and it is ridiculous to expect such great lengths from Baxter Fellows.” For Jimenez, Baxter Fellows should be responsible for coordinating social activities between residents of a building. “They are also invaluable as the manpower that propels social events that the neighborhood holds,” Jimenez said. “The four officer positions cannot and will not throw entire parties alone.”

Slack said Baxter Fellows as leaders are not very helpful at promoting house unity. “My Baxter Fellows have held some neat events, but I haven’t really gotten to know anyone in Mark Hopkins well, except for my suitemates,” Slack said. “Baxter Fellows could play more of a role, but that really means that they should be seniors or juniors. Right now, we could use stronger house leadership.”

Social programming

The NRC believes that event planning can improve by redefining the relationship between ACE, the neighborhoods and Baxter Fellows. The NRC also proposed the addition of a committee for neighborhood programming to ACE.

According to Jerusa Contee ’11, who was elected president of ACE on Sunday, and Julianne Feder ’10, ACE’s former president, ACE’s role will not see too much change. However, ACE will be responsible for organizing more events. “At this point ACE only plans First Fridays, concerts and Stressbusters,” Contee said. “Next year ACE will be planning more events outside of those categories, but all events will be aimed towards [the campus at large].”

Contee added that ACE is looking forward to collaborating with the neighborhoods in future programming endeavors. “We have been meeting to discuss exactly how we will work with each other, but are really working on opening the lines of communication,” she said.
“I think the increased communication of getting everyone together will be rather valuable,” said Brian Shepherd ’11, ACE concerts co-chair. “So far, the lack of communication has led to overlapping and competing events and there has been little accountability for certain parties not pulling their fair share.” Shepherd said ACE should be responsible for large-scale events open to the entire campus but also keep open communication with the neighborhoods regarding event planning.

College Council (CC) co-presidents Ifiyok Inyang ’11 and Emanuel Yekutiel ’11 said that CC hopes to clarify what the NRC report will mean for the NGBs and for ACE in the future. “The neighborhoods, in conjunction with ACE, have to have a conversation about how social programming is going to look in the future,” Inyang said. “CC has a role in trying to facilitate that conversation.”

Yekutiel added that getting the affected students into one room will be a productive first step in figuring out what the report will mean for ACE and the NGBs. “I look forward to seeing where these conversations go, and I think it’s important that students contact Campus Life, ACE, the NGBs and CC about opinions on what they would like to see on the responsibilities of ACE and the neighborhoods,” he said.

Additional reporting by Sasha Mironoff, News editor.

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