Whether you can put a name to it or not, every college house has a personality. Are you going on the Katahdin trip tomorrow? Sean is leading it, you know, the one in Reed. Were you at Baxter at all last night? The basement was lit post 1 a.m. See you at Ladd after the hockey game? I wish I could go to swing dancing at Howell, but I have an essay due. Year after year, the college houses embody somewhat similar characteristics, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the College seems committed to convincing students that the houses are interchangeable.  

Over the last several years, Residential Life (ResLife) has made many adjustments to the college house system in an apparent attempt to homogenize the culture between houses. Three years ago, first years’ house affiliations were changed from dorm-based to floor-based. Two years ago, the application was modified to encourage more upperclassmen to submit their names to the mostly-sophomore applicant pool. Last year, the application became binding so that students could not decline acceptance to a house even if they were not placed in a house they specifically applied to. Even more restrictive, first years can only apply to the houses that members of their block are affiliated with, or relinquish their right to list preferences. 

We question the efficacy of ResLife’s social engineering attempts to shift the college house culture by adjusting house application requirements and questions. If the College really wants to address exclusivity within the College house system—as demonstrated by the “Why Do College Houses Feel So White?” panel—shifting around blocks and mandating that students apply to houses that they are affiliated with seems superficial.

In each of these tweaks to the college house system, ResLife has attempted to counteract the personas each house has developed over time. But the houses’ personalities are often among the most celebrated, important and positive aspects of the college house system. College houses can have unique identities and have a close-knit group of residents without inheriting the negative characteristics of fraternities. Though the College House system was designed to be a healthier space on campus than fraternities were, it is still a necessarily exclusive system—not every student can live in a house, and not everyone wants to, either.

Because there are eight houses on campus, each with a slightly different atmosphere, most students are likely to identify with at least one house, though it is inevitable that no student will connect with all of them. Bowdoin can work on making the houses more inclusive and open to all members of campus without sacrificing the character of the individual houses. It is absolutely important that every student feel safe in every house, but for students lucky enough find a house they connect with, ResLife’s rules should encourage, not prohibit that.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Julian Andrews, Jono Gruber, Matthew Gutschenritter, Meg Robbins, Nicole Wetsman and Emily Weyrauch.