With most first years living on campus and a majority of sophomores, the House residents during a typical semester, remote, the College Houses are facing a unique set of challenges in facilitating and building community this fall.
House programming chairs are being forced to get creative. This past week, several Houses organized virtual events for their affiliates. Helmrich House facilitated Quiplash, Boody-Johnson ran a Kahoot game, Reed held “speed-dating” and Burnett played Skribbl.io.
Despite the creative energy and motivation, House chairs are encountering some obstacles. During the Burnett House Skribbl.io game, the only attendees, apart from Paris Wilson ’23 (a House chair) were the first-year affiliates who are living in Burnett this semester. For Helmrich’s Quiplash game, seven participants logged on. This weekend’s Minecraft server is expecting three. Because of a conflict with on-campus programming, Boody-Johnson’s Kahoot game had no attendees.
Burnett House Chair, Emma Hargreaves ’23, explained the lack of participation to the Orient in a video interview.
“Burnout is probably the biggest [challenge]… It’s usually a problem for College Houses with programming. A couple months in, fewer and fewer people start to show up, but I feel like it’s happened way quicker via Zoom,” she said. “Everything is a little bit more draining when you don’t get to share energy with people in person…[and] online school is draining, so it’s twofold…How do I get you excited to get back on a Zoom call when you just got off [one]?”
Despite these difficulties, House officers remain committed to facilitating community within College Houses.
“I think the main goal for [College House programming] is to foster community within the house and also the first-year [affiliates],” said Wilson in a video interview with the Orient.
This objective is particularly relevant and challenging this semester. But Eli Rowland ’23, the programming chair of Helmrich House, said his House has a lot more planned for the future.
“We’re doing Minecraft this weekend. We have some baking stuff coming up. We’re looking to coordinate with…Baxter House, and [hold] a little informational session on Maine elections,” Rowland said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.
Looking further into the semester, Rowland is planning microwave cooking, inter-house gaming wars and Skribbl.io.
Other houses are re-starting buddy systems, writing chain letters, facilitating sexual health discussions, planning mixers and making no-bake cookies. House chairs also hope that first years will use the Houses as resources. Reed House Programming Chair Sarah Munoru ’23 said in a Zoom interview with the Orient that she wants this year’s first years to meet upperclassmen and establish a welcoming community.
Many Houses are realizing that building a sense of community is going to look different than in previous years. Some, like Boody-Johnson programming chair Jeremiah Brown ’23, think that accepting this shortcoming and making it clear that not everything will go smoothly is the key to being successful.
“Maybe we need to let go of trying to recreate what we had our first year and instead embrace change,” said Brown in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “Unfortunately, sometimes that means it’s messy and it’s not perfect for the first years or the other Houses or anything, but it’s a process, we’re in it and we’re always open to feedback.”