After the rejection of their proposal for a special interest house focused on women’s health, Julia Luczkow, ’15, Sara Marchello, ’15, Ashley Krause, ’15, and Nicole Masters, ’15, called the selection process “impersonal” in an opinion piece in last week’s issue of The Campus. Joe Hall, Associate Director of Residence Life, however, said that the proposal was rejected due to poor planning.
The proposed house was aimed at creating a welcoming environment for students to discuss topics pertaining to women’s health, including domestic violence and abuse, women’s services and other issues.
Although there were five possible spaces available for special interest houses, only three groups including the women’s services house applied.
According Hall, the committee’s goal this semester was to review the three groups’ proposals with the same level of criticism with which they reviewed past years’ proposals, when an average of ten groups applied to live in the five houses.
“It’s not so much that we have to give all five houses. We have five houses available,” Hall said. “It’s really the committee’s decision that we’re giving these houses to groups that we feel are prepared to be successful and have met all the requirements that we’ve asked in the past when we’ve had a larger number of applicants in the pool.”
Hall said that proposals are judged by a committee of faculty, students and staff members on the quality and preparedness of the proposal, the level of support the group has from its adviser, and the amount of work and advanced preparation the group has put into the special interest house.
According to Hall, the committee began selecting fewer special interest houses after receiving student feedback saying that there wasn’t a need for quite so many houses.
“Toward last year we had done some work with ASG and other students on campus and we actually found that students thought we should have less special interest houses,” he said. “So last year was really the first year when we started accepting less special interest houses, which keeps more houses open for the regular room draw.”
The students in the women’s services applicant group, however, said that their proposal would have filled a void on campus, creating a space where students could turn to their peers, not adults, for support.
“As women, we felt that we would have the chance to change the negative connotations surrounding rape and domestic violence victims and to create a safe and open environment where they and any student, regardless of their gender, would be able to discuss issues such as these in a nonjudgmental and more casual, residential environment,” Masters and Krause said in last week’s opinion article titled “Women’s Services house needed on campus.”
Hall said that while he and the committee supported the group’s idea, they prefer to see groups that have planned out programming ideas
“We obviously think it’s a wonderful idea […],” Hall said. “We would’ve liked to see more preparation ahead of time with some of the other areas on and off campus through our sexual harassment office or women’s services, to have really sat down with them and had a meeting and talked about the proposal and gotten support from those constituents before the presentation.”
However, some of the group members said it was not clear that they were expected to have set up the house’s programming by the time of the proposal.
“We had things laid out, how much money things would cost, when we would do it, and we had names and numbers of people we would contact,” Marchello said. “They wanted us to already have everything set up, I feel like, and I don’t think anyone knew that because it was a proposal saying ‘this is what we’re going to do.'”
The students also expressed discontent with the fact that Hall got up and left the room for a portion of their presentation.
Hall said that he had been dealing with an issue with another student, and left the room to touch base with the associate dean, whom he saw passing by.
“There were other committee members that were present for the portion that I had missed so I felt totally up to speed and I was present for the end of the presentation and was able to ask questions,” Hall said.
The group said that the follow-up meeting they had with Hall and other committee members was very informative about why their proposal was not selected for a special interest house.
“At the meeting, Professor Saltsman was pretty enlightening about what they expected from us … but I still felt pretty disappointed by Joe Hall because he didn’t really do much of the talking, so I’m still kind of disappointed in his actions,” Marchello said.
Masters said that the group members will be undergoing the 62 hours of training necessary to work with the women and children at Women’s Services. The training is not usually offered in the spring, but the girls were able to get their training expedited to begin March 7. According to Masters, Jacquie Kondrot, Associate Dean of Students for Wellness Education, also offered them space in the college’s Wellness House.
“We’re still going to do everything we said we were going to do because we still want to do it, we just won’t have our house,” Marchello said.