by Sam Ferrone | 09/11/20 2:10 a.m.

Home communities provide shared social spaces, like the Cube, which is intended for Allen and School homes.

This article is featured in the Freshman 2020 special issue.

Widely regarded as an attempt at a social alternative to Greek spaces, Dartmouth’s community house system aims to connect students to each other through shared residential rooms and social events. However, some students criticized the system for not achieving this goal and in some cases for introducing social barriers between students.

First implemented in the fall of 2016, Home Communities was the culmination of a college effort to prevent community issues such as “high-risk alcohol consumption, sexual assault, and withdrawal. inclusion, ”said Craig Sutton, professor at School House.

Before the freshmen arrive on campus in the fall, they are spread across one of six house communities – Allen, East Wheelock, North Park, School, South, and West – which correspond to dormitories. specific on campus. Students can only stay with people from their home community.

In its pre-pandemic form, Sutton said, the house system was an opportunity for social mixing. As a School House teacher, Sutton works with the Office of Residential Life to organize home-wide social programs and events, such as trips, in-house dinners, and guest speakers. In addition, the houses allow the faculty to interact more closely with the students. According to the New Student Orientation website, starting September 9, the class of 2024 will be able to participate in online community events.

The ability to ‘really know’ your faculty is an advantage of the Dartmouth experience, and the opportunities offered by the internal system allow both students and faculty to cultivate the kind of relationships Dartmouth advertises, said Sutton. .

According to Sutton, the process of researching common campus issues – heavy drinking, sexual violence and exclusivity – began in 2014 with the creation of the Moving Dartmouth Forward Presidential Steering Committee. Throughout the year, students and other campus stakeholders contributed to the decision to create an in-house system.

“Much of it arose from interviews with students,” Sutton said. He explained that many in the community felt that while Dartmouth did a good job welcoming the students, D-Plan left many people feeling disconnected from the community at the start of second year.

“Home communities were born to help alleviate some of the churning that is happening as a result of Plan D,” Sutton said.

Home communities offer alternative social spaces, receive mixed reviews

Some current students, however, report feeling dissatisfied with the state of the house community system. In January, an investigation by The Dartmouth found that 73 percent of students did not feel a ‘strong sense of community belonging’ with other students in their home ‘

Yuna Kim ’22 said that while she supports the college’s efforts to maintain social connections after the first year, she does not find the house system particularly effective.

“The D-Plan makes it difficult to create a sense of continuity, and I think Dartmouth is doing a good job of solving this problem to the best of its ability,” she said. “But I think the house system has very little to do with it.”

Kim said she believes house communities are falling short because of the degree of influence the College has over their social programming operations. A member of the Chi Delta sorority, she said she sees the house system as an attempt to provide non-Greek social space for students, but part of the appeal of the Greek system is its isolation from faculty. .

“I think there are a lot of people who find the community [in the house system], “she said.” … However, I think the fact that it’s so closely watched by the College is a big part of why people don’t want to get involved. ”

Some students, despite mixed experiences with the house system itself, agreed with the sentiment behind its creation.

Peyton Gordon ’23 said she thinks the idea behind the “com[es] from the right place.

“I think he’s trying to institute not only an alternative social space, but also an alternative social group to Greek life,” Gordon said.

Soham Maiti ’23 said he felt the house system did not have a big impact on the social life of Dartmouth students, but noted it was useful early in his freshman year.

“It was good for the first two or three weeks because it helped me get to know people and… get involved with some of them. [house community] events, ”he said. “As the year progressed, I got less and less involved.”

Maiti found that the house system provided him with a social starting point from which he could branch out. Despite this, he said most of his current friends came from the Ultimate Frisbee team and the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra rather than his home community.

Gordon found that the importance of the housing system to his experience in Dartmouth stemmed primarily from social ties with the students at his dormitory.

“Even if you don’t really feel affiliated with the community at home, you feel like a community within the dorm,” Gordon said.

Restrictions on access to dormitories, remote dissatisfaction

In the fall of 2019, the College implemented a policy of restricting access to dormitories, restricting a student’s key card access to residential buildings within their living communities. In a survey conducted by The Dartmouth, students expressed widespread dissatisfaction with politics – 80 percent or more of each class, in addition to the class of 2023, said they were “strongly opposed” to it. The restriction was reduced later this term, only remaining in effect between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Gordon said that although she thought the restrictions were an effort to foster community within the houses, the policy was an ineffective way to do it and “seriously concerned” her. She said she believes it is important to lift dormitory restrictions at night, when students are often the most vulnerable to sexual violence.

“As a girl, I [want to be able to] enter a dormitory … especially the fact that they were closed after [9 p.m.] – that’s when it’s really dangerous, ”she said.

Maiti said he believed that what keeps longevity from the importance of the home system in the freshman experience is lack of enthusiasm.

” This kind of things [like dorm access restrictions] probably don’t need to exist at all, and if they’re going to push for a deeper housing community, they really should start with… the spirit, ”he said. “I don’t think there’s that much wit in the way Dartmouth does it.”

The physical spacing of home communities, according to Kim, contributes to the disconnection that students can feel with their home.

“For example, West House lives in so many different buildings on campus [during freshman year] that it’s not like you’re actually interacting with people who are supposed to be from the same community as you – it’s a very geographic thing, ”she said.

Ideally, according to Kim, home communities would be “more organic and natural” if they were smaller groups with residential proximity.

Despite the mixed feelings of current students, some new freshmen were optimistic about the role home communities would play in their social lives. Grace Chen ’24 said the house system was actually a factor that drew her to Dartmouth.

“I know Dartmouth has a great community, and [the house system] is just another factor that added to it, ”she said.

Jessica Chiriboga ’24, meanwhile, saw the term distance as an opportunity for the new class to become more involved in home communities.

“It’s kind of a new start for all of us. … Whatever we want housing to be, we can define it, ”she said.

However, not all are so optimistic. Charlie Knight ’24 said he didn’t expect his home to have a big impact on his experience in Dartmouth.

“I don’t think I’ll need an outlet to make friends or build communities. … I don’t think I’m taking too much advantage of this system, ”Knight said.

He added that he would like to meet people “in a little more natural way”, rather than through the “unintentional” community created by the house system.