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Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024

Editorial Fostering Bonds Between Houses and Community

Author: [no author name found]

As the second annual review of social and academic interest houses gets underway, with the Community Council Subcommittee on Social and Academic Interest Houses evaluating the mission statements of all houses and making sure that they are complying with College guidelines, it is crucial for the houses and their leadership to take an active role in ensuring their future at Middlebury.

Following last year's review process, which became more comprehensive after the Residential Life Committee was disbanded, provisional status was assigned to many houses, due to a variety of internal issues. These ranged from a lack of connection to academic departments or faculty for academic interest houses to filling beds in both social and academic interest houses and the need to foster bonds with the greater Middlebury community. All house leadership, regardless of current status, must work to ensure that the guidelines given in last year's review are taken seriously, as the houses provide diversity and social outlets for members of the College community.

Fostering the bonds between academic interest house members and their faculty heads and departments is important for the success of the houses. Faculty should take an active role by publicizing house events in their classrooms, by encouraging students to live in the houses, by attending house events and by acting as advisors for students living in the academic interest houses. If faculty members depict the houses as important parts of their departments, students may be increasingly interested in living in the houses or taking part in social events.

Members of the houses must also work to engage faculty in such interactions by inviting them to attend events. By reaching out to faculty, students living in academic interest houses will bring added support and publicity to their homes. In addition, students have the responsibility of publicizing their existence to the wider Middlebury community, especially when they hold events that emphasize the unique cultures or values of their homes. Since one of the goals of the system is to increase diversity and the sharing of ideas, this is imperative for the success of the system.

In regards to sponsoring outreach to the community outside the borders of the College, both social and academic interest houses have the responsibility to positively contribute to the town of Middlebury, either by holding activities for local children, organizing community service functions or inviting community members house events. These activities promote a positive image for Middlebury College, as well as for the respective houses.

Filling beds in all houses is a recurrent problem, and some social houses have tried to remedy this by requiring members to live in the house for at least one semester. Hopefully if all houses take a more active role in promoting their presence on campus, there will be a greater demand to live in the houses.

The social house system already has an Inter-House Council to address the goals and functions of its houses; perhaps a similar, even if less structured, link of communication among academic interest houses might create a way to share ideas and create broader awareness of issues facing all houses.

At a time when students across campus complain incessantly about housing crunches and a lack of prime housing opportunities, students living in social and academic interest houses must realize that these living situations are a privilege that must not be taken lightly. They must exhibit a desire to increase the stature of their houses and to promote a positive image.

The review of social and academic interest houses is crucial to the success of these housing systems. If the houses adhere to the stipulated guidelines and recommendations outlined in their previous reviews, and if they take the initiative to expand their visibility on and off campus, they will further add to the diversity of the Middlebury campus, while at the same time enhancing their own house communities.