Interfaith House, formerly located on the first floor of 230 Washington St., has been disbanded due to a lack of student interest in the program. Administrators, along with student members of the Undergraduate Residential Life Committee (URLC), which is composed of ResLife staff and Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) members, are in the process of deciding what to do with the space.
According to WSA Student Affairs Committee Chair and URLC co-chair Nicole Updegrove ’14, the decision to do away with Interfaith House was made last year after two semesters of low student interest in living in the house.
“Every semester, Area Coordinators evaluate program houses based on a series of criteria including number of beds filled by interested students (not boarders), number of programs conducted, and general engagement of the house members in house activities,” Updegrove wrote in an email to The Argus. “Houses must earn a passing number of points to remain in good standing; if they miss the mark two out of three consecutive semesters, the house is brought to the University Residential Life Committee for review of its viability.”
Currently, Lighthouse residents as well as boarders are occupying the house. Lighthouse is located on the second floor of 230 Washington.
The primary goal of the URLC right now is to fill the house in a way that is most beneficial to the University community. At the moment, several options are being considered, including transfer of an existing program house.
“Res Life is in the process of reviewing the needs of several current program houses to see if relocation of any existing programs would make sense,” wrote Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Whaley in an email to The Argus.
If the URLC along with administrators decide to relocate a program, no new program will be created. However, if they decide to explore options for a new program house, then students will have the opportunity to apply for the use of the space by a program of their creation. It will then be up to the URLC to review all applications and vote for the best option.
Some student groups have already expressed interest in the space, which consists of a lounge, a kitchen, a laundry room, and seven bedrooms, including four doubles and three singles. Rho Epsilon Pi (Rho Ep) and Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) hope to apply to jointly share the space.
“We feel that this co-educational housing experience presents a unique opportunity to chart a new, progressive course for Greek life at Wesleyan,” Rho Ep President Melody Oliphant ’13 wrote in an email to The Argus.
Rho Ep members have entertained the idea of acquiring a house since the Wesleyan chapter of the sorority was founded in March of 2011. Oliphant explained that she sees the idea of sharing the space with AEPi as an opportunity to challenge stereotypes of Greek societies at the University.
“I’ve often heard the expressed viewpoint at Wesleyan and other peer institutions that housed Greek societies present as antithetical to a progressive liberal arts education,” Oliphant wrote. “We feel that its important to combat such pigeonholed stereotypes about Greek societies. A co-ed house presents that valuable chance to live and learn together while still maintaining autonomy and building meaningful communities on campus for students.”
In April of 2011, President Michael Roth stated that he would not be in favor of adding single-sex Greek housing on campus, but he did not specify whether he would be opposed to the creation of a new co-ed Greek house. If Rho Ep and AEPi are given the opportunity to apply for the creation of a new program house, such an application will be considered by the URLC. However, if Roth decides not to allow for the expansion of Greek housing, the application cannot ultimately be approved.
Though the members of Rho Ep and AEPi are hopeful, Whaley has expressed the administration’s current feelings clearly.
“President Roth has made clear that we intend to continue supporting the existing residential Greek organizations, but that we will not create additional Greek houses,” Whaley wrote. “Students can, of course, freely participate in any of a number of other Greek organizations that do not have houses at Wesleyan.”
Members of Rho Ep and AEPi will meet with Roth in the coming weeks to discuss the idea of creating a co-ed program house for their organizations.