The fall of the theme house system

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By Ryan Asselin

I live at 32 Union Ave., which was, until recently, known as Music Culture House.

Halfway through last term, Union informed my housemates and me that we would need to find new places to live next year, as the college was replacing Music Culture House with Rights House, a new theme house.

This news came as a surprise because all of us, as sophomores, had just moved into the house in September.

My housemates and I were sent packing because we were being punished for the lack of effort put into hosting events in past years, and other events over which we had no control.

Sure, I do approve of the fact that students have a say in creating new theme houses, but I completely disagree with the process that brings about the changes. Union owns 13 on- and off-campus houses, each with a different theme created and promoted by the residents.

Each term, theme houses have a set budget that they are allowed to use to benefit the college community with at least three themed events.

The theme houses provide a wide variety of free, alternative events based on the themes of the houses.

In the past school year, Music Culture House has organized many successful events open to the entire campus.

To start off our house’s inaugural year, the current residents of what was formerly known as Music Culture House organized a “Grill ’N Jam” event, where people were welcome to play around on a wide variety of instruments outside while also enjoying burgers off the grill.

The event brought in close to 40 students to hang out and embrace music.

One of our most popular events, our open mic events through the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity, brought in an estimated 50 or more performers and listeners alike.

Along with Alpha Delta Phi, Music Culture House hosted an event with Phi Iota Alpha, which helped to foster relationships between theme houses and Greek houses at Union.

Theme houses are reviewed by the Student Affairs Council (SAC) board once every one, two or three years.

Although last year Safe House was replaced with the new Tech House, I believe the removal of Music Culture House this year was not only foolish, but also based more on house reputation than anything else.

I believe that other residents and I were unjustly targeted based on the lack of commitment from previous tenants, along with the negative reputation associated with historically having a connection to many players on the Ultimate Frisbee team on campus.

Around three weeks after the current residents moved in, we made our presence known on campus through our popular “Grill ’N Jam” event.

We made it known that we would not be lazy and that we were prepared to commit ourselves to positively influencing the campus community.

When the vote passed in favor of a new theme house taking Music Culture House’s place, it invalidated the experience and the events that my housemates and I planned to hold for the remaining term-and-a-half of our first year living in the house.

When we accepted the opportunity to live in an off-campus, college-owned theme house, none of us were told that the house we would move into would be up for review during our residency.

We knew that Music Culture House’s events last year were unsuccessful, but we knew that that would change when we took charge.

In September, 32 Union Ave. will no longer be Music Culture House.

Instead, it will be replaced with Rights House, which is dedicated to promoting human rights on campus and around the world.

Rights House, along with Religious Diversity House, will just become another theme house at Union that will never be voted down by SAC.

By voting in Rights House, Union’s SAC unnecessarily voted for future problems.

If you were on SAC, would you feel comfortable ever voting against a house whose theme is religion? What about a house whose theme is human rights?

It is always easier to vote down a house themed around something simple like music instead of a pressing issue that, if voted against, could be viewed as bigotry, sexism or inhumanity.

I believe that it is better to have college-owned theme houses rooted in simple, relatable themes that bring people together, like music, art, food and the environment. When the school brings in complex themes, it cuts off potential housing that would appear tempting to a much wider selection of students.

Additionally, I believe the school should offer more housing options for the already overpopulated campus with cluttered living conditions.

Why just exchange theme houses instead of buying up more neighboring houses and creating more themes? More theme houses mean more alternative events on campus.

They also offer more student involvement and a higher probability of happiness while in school if one can associate him- or herself with a larger number of people who share similar interests.

For a school as powerful and well run as Union is, its theme house system is woefully flawed and must be changed.SAC review of theme houses needs major constitutional and organizational revisions.

This includes voting, a process for which SAC has received much internal criticism in the past.

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