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Subcommittees To Weigh in on House Life

By Abby D. Phillip, Crimson Staff Writer

At the first meeting of the Committee on House Life yesterday morning, the group discussed the addition of two student subcommittees to propose potential changes to House life and offer recommendations on the College’s estimated $1 billion House renovation project.

These two new student groups join three existing subcommittees that include both students and faculty members.

All five groups are expected to address the same questions about the mission, purpose, and vision of house life.

Suzy M. Nelson, the College’s associate dean for residential life, said that the two new committees, which the Undergraduate Council advocated, were added so that more students could provide input to the House Program Planning Committee that was formed last spring.

“We originally thought a survey, and focus groups, and town hall meetings would be sufficient,” Nelson said. “And I think what the UC was saying is that we need more students.”

The town hall meetings that administrators had initially envisioned were replaced by the two student committees, which will conduct three dinner meetings over the course of the semester and will be co-chaired by House Committee members, according to Nelson.

The move which underscores the increasing complexity of the effort to plan for the renewal project, even in its early stages.

A number of committees are charged with providing recommendations about residential living space, House life, academic and social space, and swing spaces that will hold students while the Houses are being renovated.

“It’s a messy phase of any project when you’re trying to gather information from lots of different constituents and stake-holders,” said Nelson about the increasing number of committees. “But that’s really what we’re trying to do. We want this canvassed very widely.”

In the spring, the College hired a consulting firm to conduct focus groups with students from each of the four House “neighborhoods” to gauge opinion about the existing housing situation.

A survey, which came out of discussions in the focus groups, will be offered to students online next week.

A group of students, faculty and administrators also traveled to Yale and Princeton for a two-day tour of the colleges’ residential housing systems last weekend. Two other groups took similar tours last spring and summer.

Although the CHL has sat in the front seat for discussions on major issues such as alcohol policy, student social life, and dining hall issues, some students have questioned the value of their input in these committees.

Nelson said the CHL’s “real purpose” this year is to have “open, honest dialogue with students about things that matter to them, and to have students feel as if people are listening.”

—Crimson staff writer Abby D. Phillip can be reached at

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