Last night Ladd House hosted a panel and small-group discussion entitled, “Why do the College Houses Feel so White?” Topics of discussion ranged from how music and dancing at College House parties affect the whiteness of the spaces to what it feels like as a student of color applying to a house.
Organized by President of Reed House Diana Furukawa ’18 and Programming Director of Reed House Victoria Lowrie ’18, the panel was moderated by Assistant Director of Residential Life Mariana Centeno and featured Hayley Nicholas ’17, Sarah Lim ’18, Hannah Cooke ’18, Justin Weathers ’18, Osakhare Omoregie ’18, Maya Reyes ’16 and Paola Maymi ’18. The event was attended by about 40 students.
While each panelist had different experiences and understandings of why and how College Houses are predominantly white spaces, the majority of the panel agreed the music and dancing culture at College Houses reinforce the feeling of whiteness that pervades the houses.
Reyes suggested songs that are the main culprits for her, particularly “Mr. Brightside” and “Stacy’s Mom.”
“There’s no denying ‘Stacy’s Mom’ is a white, suburban song,” she said. “It’s a fun song, but now as a senior every time I hear that song I think ‘that wasn’t my life experience.’ So just knowing now that every time it plays in a College House it’s just a reminder that this is the culture I’m in, and I can’t forget that.”
Centeno noted that statistically, the racial composition of College Houses is about the same as the rest of the college. Maymi spoke to this point.
“For me the College House system hasn’t felt that white because I went to middle school and high school in Tampa, Florida at a school that was 95 percent white, which felt much whiter than Bowdoin,” she said.
Maymi added that she felt the most uncomfortable with her race when applying to a College House as part of a block.
“Maybe this wasn’t my friends’ intention[s], but I felt like I was always being singled out as someone who would make the block better because I’m Puerto Rican,” she said. “And that felt uncomfortable to me because I didn’t want to be living with people who saw me as just someone that would help them get in [to a house].”
However, in light of increased attention being paid to diversity on campus, the application process seems to be changing. Centeno has seen a shift in the focus of programming suggestions for College Houses.
“A lot of the programs [first years are] bringing up are programs speaking about diversity,” she said. “That’s a trend that I haven’t seen before in reading applications.”
These programs—along with events like last night’s panel—could help usher in a shift in the role College Houses serve on campus.