Not All Special Interest Houses Filled Amid Space Changes

Total applications for rooms in special interest houses fell below the number of beds available for the third year in a row, as established houses like Romance Language and Social Justice have been moved to new locations.

Out of 167 total beds available, just 142 of them were filled by the time the Fall 2023 housing lottery started on April 18. “That’s a lot of beds to have open,” said Tori Campbell, the Area Coordinator responsible for special interest houses. Campbell said the divide between the level of interest and available beds poses a problem in a residential system that operates close to full capacity each year.

Last year, they said, “we were just placing people in special interest houses because they had open beds.” Residence Life would prefer not to do that this year, they said.

The largest change to the special interest housing landscape in the fall will be the new locations of Social Justice House and Romance Language House. Social Justice, which has called Stuart Hall home on the corner of Dickinson Ave. and N. West St. since 2013, will now be in a townhouse at 383 W. Louther St. Romance Language House will take over Stuart Hall.

Campbell told The Dickinsonian that the change was due both to Social Justice’s early struggles this year to fill their roster for the fall and the greater need for single rooms in Romance Language House. The contract between Overseas Assistants — students from Dickinson’s partner programs who work as teaching assistants in language departments — guarantees them single rooms, which Stuart Hall was better able to provide.

Though the residents of Social Justice House were later able to come up with a full roster for the fall, the change had already been made.

Now with more beds to fill, however, Romance Language House has 8 spots open, according to Rachel Jacoves ’25, the house liaison. Campbell told The Dickinsonian that Residence Life would work with the Center for Global Study and Engagement (CGSE) to place international exchange students in some of the open beds.

In several special interest houses, including Spectrum, LatinX and Classics, house liaisons initially struggled to generate interest. 

Spectrum House was unable to completely fill their roster for the fall, with one spot remaining open. Jo van Kuilenberg ’23, the liaison for Spectrum House, said “We had way fewer applicants this year. Last year, we had eight, and this year we had three. We think this has to do with the fact a lot of people we know are going abroad. We also don’t have the same queer/trans student groups on campus we were able to advertise to last year.”

In particular, van Kuilenberg lamented that the Queer Student Union, which had previously represented the interests of queer and trans students on campus, was inactive this Spring, cutting off an opportunity to advertise the house.

LatinX house and Classics House were able to recruit full rosters, but the process was not without its challenges. Julie Quizhpi-Cazho ’25 and Jojo Pineda-Angon ’25, LatinX house liaisons, said “Few people are interested in paying the extra amount to live in an apartment, which is totally understandable. Thankfully after spring break, we were able to fill every bed.” 

Despite early challenges, they received more applications for the fall than the house did last year. For Quizhpi-Cazho and Pineda-Angon, the motivations to live in LatinX House and recruit others to do so as well were clear. They said, “we did not want the LatinX community to lose the house and representation on Dickinson’s campus.”

Jocelyn Wright ’23, Classics House liaison, said it took longer to fill her house than in previous years, in part due to what she saw as less intense advertising than in previous years. She was surprised to see relatively low interest this year, “especially now after witnessing the sheer disaster that was the housing lottery,” since the special interest housing process is separate from the lottery.

Outhouse, the Outdoor Education and Outing Club house, did not struggle to fill their roster, receiving over thirty applications. House liaison Livia Ball ’24 said, “I think we were more successful this year because I started recruiting people to apply pretty early on and reached out to related groups to find interested students.” The house recruited heavily from the Outing Club and the Ultimate Frisbee Team.

Human Cultures House was similarly successful, filling their whole 12-person roster by renewal time. Still, house liaison Ivy Johnson ’24 told The Dickinsonian, “we didn’t start filling up til about the week before spring break.” She said, “I think that this may have been due to starting advertisement for special interest housing later than usual, and I want to try to remedy this next year.”

Regardless of how many applicants they had this year, many of the current house liaisons commented on the process itself. Ball said, “The Special Interest housing process was difficult just because it is a ton of work and is not compensated. I wish there was some sort of benefit of being house liaison other than just having control over the roster because it is a lot more work than I was expecting.”

van Kuilenberg said, “The biggest issue this year was the deadlines for filing the rosters. The deadlines Res Life gave us overlapped with Spring Break, which made it difficult to communicate with applicants.” 

Communication around space changes was a challenge for Johnson, who said, “I do wish that space changes could have been planned before renewal season, because I felt like it was unfair to upcoming special interest house groups, and that it made the process harder in general for everyone.” 

Johnson said, “I think that a way to improve the process for next year could be to have a general meeting for present and future house liaisons to discuss wants and needs for housing, to make sure that everyone gets a say.”