College houses see low numbers of house leaders
More than 40 percent of the spots in next year's social houses will be
filled by non-house leaders, an analysis of this year's social house system
While 130 total students originally applied for 154 spots in the house
system, a yield of only 91 students actually chose to live in the houses.
This represents 59 percent of the total spots in the houses.
The only houses in which there were more applicants than total beds were
Ladd House and MacMillan House. However, only Ladd House will be made
up of 100 percent house leaders, with a total of 22. MacMillan will be
made up of 81 percent leaders, with a total of 21.
Howell House will be made up of eight leaders, which makes up 30 percent
of the total beds available there. Helmreich will be made up of 11 leaders,
totaling 46 percent of the house's capacity; Quinby will be made up of
12 leaders, totaling 50 percent of its capacity.
According to Assistant Director of Residential Life Kim Pacelli, in some
cases the numbers are slightly lower than were anticipated. In other cases,
though like MacMillan House (currently Boody St.), which jumped from fewer
than ten initial house leaders for this year to 21 for next year.
The yield is affected by a number of factors, Pacelli said. One is that
students simply change their minds. Another is that students applied for
positions both as Res Life members and as house leaders, and they chose
to join Res Life instead; this was the case with nine defectors.
The Residential Life office does not have statistics from past years
available yet, though Pacelli said that she will be putting together that
data within the coming months. Without such statistics, the Residential
Life staff cannot determine if this year's numbers are part of a downward
trend or if they represent normal flux from one year to the next.
Within the individual houses, Pacelli said, "there is often some
flux from one year to the next," and, it is not necessarily the case
that this year's numbers stand out against recent years past.
"It will be interesting to see what the trends are when I pull some
data together, though we will really have a hard time pinning what the
causality of the changes are," Pacelli said. The reason for this
is the number of housing options and other outside factors that change
each year, which cause students' motivations to differ.
For example, with the addition of two non-house spaces to the lottery-the
Stowe Inn and Boody St., whose residents will move to MacMillan House
next year, together add more than 50 beds-students may feel less uncertainty
about getting a space in the housing lottery. Students in the past had
often applied to be social house leaders to ensure a place to live without
having to enter the lottery.
It is not unprecedented for a house to have fewer than ten leaders initially
sign on, this year's Boody St. membership being an example. "It was
a mental challenge for them, and there are some obvious logistical hurdles,"
One option for increasing the number of house leaders in each house is
for other residents in the houses to join as leaders if they want to.
Over the summer, Res Life will invite non-leader residents who gained
their spots in the housing lottery to become active house members, although
they will be under no obligation to do so, Pacelli said.
Many current leaders of the house system feel that the low yield of house
leaders points to a fundamental problem in the system: that students are
not interested in taking part in the house system.
A group of students, made up of house leaders and members of the Inter-House
Council (IHC), has already begun talking about ways to improve the system
and generate greater interest in it. The group, under the leadership of
Acadia Senese '03, Quinby House president, will conduct a report on the
social house system in the coming academic year and will distribute a
revised mission statement by the end of this school year.
The idea for the report, Senese said, grew out of her witnessing a lot
of house leaders griping about many aspects of the system, without anyone
ever doing anything about it. As a result, the group plans to present
the report to the trustees, as they feel the trustees are the people who
can make changes happen.
"We believe that that house system, as it stands now, can function,"
Senese said. "But the problem is that it's not cool; people are not
vested in it." Noting that few people applied to live in Quinby House
for next year, she said, "The houses can work. The big problem is
that we don't have the interest."
"Providing a social life is where the issues are. People don't look
to the social houses as a social outlet, especially upperclassmen."
In the meantime, Senese and the IHC are in the process of drafting a
revised mission statement for the house system, which they will distribute
to all students by the end of this academic year. The mission statement
will also be placed in all first years' orientation packets.
The goal of the mission statement, Senese said, is to re-emphasize the role of the social house system, suggest that it's the only social structure Bowdoin has. "We don't want to ask people to like it," she said.