Editorial: Theme Houses Need More Faculty Involvement to Spur Activity
By The Executive Board
With theme house applications due in less than two weeks, many rising sophomores are probably debating whether or not they want to apply instead of risking the perils and drama of Room Draw. However, though theme houses are theoretically a good concept to promote linguistic and cultural development, many of them do not always come through with their stated intent.

Theme houses receive approximately $600 a year from Residential Life (ResLife), on top of the Resident Counselor budget, to host events for the campus, which they require residents to organize. These events include anything from a presentation on the origin of the Cyrillic alphabet to a night of French crepes. While such events do occur, many houses do not advertise these events to the public, or even more frustrating, do not host events at all. While some of this blame lays with the students themselves, the faculty and administration should also take increased interest in the theme houses and help the presidents, and in many cases, teaching assistants, to plan events. For example, last semester’s Berlin Wall symposium, organized by the German department but hosted in Porter House, drew a large crowd because the faculty made an effort to put it together. They publicized it through tabling in Val, giving out free t-shirts and other memorabilia and invited speakers to share their experiences. Further faculty involvement in theme housing could lend much needed direction and enthuisasm, and professors should take the lead so that resident involvement and house events for the campus become part of the atmosphere of the theme house and not the exception.

Moreover, ResLife should enforce stricter rules for residents. While students should stop applying to theme houses only because they want a single and actually apply because they are interested in the theme itself, the administration could take further steps to curtail this behavior. Houses could make event attendance mandatory for residents — at least two per semester without an excuse, as an example, and could also create a weekly house activity, such as the German House’s Kaffeeklatsch and Russian House’s chai, to foster house solidarity. ResLife could also enforce a reevaluation of residents at the end of the first semester to see if they actually uphold the rules they agreed to when moving into the house. While students can sound very good on paper and wax lyrical about their passion for the theme house during the interview, many of them do not follow through, and ResLife should make it the norm to ask such students to either leave the house or begin contributing more.

In endorsing more active faculty involvement in theme houses and more accountability for students who live there (including presidents), we do not wish to take away from the fact that theme housing is about a student community. If all students only applied to theme houses for the community and cultural enrichment and followed through during the school year, there would be no need for the administration to continuously check that theme houses are actively engaging the community. We want people to apply to theme houses for the right reasons, and one way to make sure of this is to make sure that if someone lives in say, La Casa, they will have to organize and participate in house activities. This requires faculty involvement and student willingness to sincerely commit to the principal tenets of theme housing. Considering their funding and the number of people who live in them, theme houses should play a more prominent role in student life. The measures we suggest could go far in correcting this.

Issue 15, Submitted 2010-02-17 02:44:11