Making the House a Home: A Blueprint for Action
What is the goal of the Cabot House Committee?
Ultimately, Cabot HoCo is hoping to enhance the housing experience of all Cabot House residents. While most students who identify strongly with their house have positive experiences, it is difficult to get some students to "buy-into" the house experience. Some students are looking only for a place to sleep, while some are looking for a place they can call home. As a HoCo, I believe it is our duty not to force our own definition of a house community onto the members of the house, but rather help enhance the housing experience for all who choose to participate. We aim to provide an inclusive, welcoming space for everyone in house to address the different wants and needs of our residents. With that, however, it is important to actively address the barriers that prevent students from engaging with the Cabot House community.
Barriers of involvement in House Life
After interview several residents of Cabot House with varying degrees of involvement, several themes emerged as key reasons for limited involvement in the house community, including:
Every resident is coming into the house with different levels of existing communities at Harvard.
- Students that have strong senses of community from other campus groups are less likely to be engaged. If a sense of community is being adequately met elsewhere, there is little reason for a student to want to become engaged in a house community.
Sophomores are already a year into their college experience, and are less likely to adapt their lifestyles to fit their house.
- Going into house life, all individuals I spoke with indicated they were at least "open" to the idea of a house providing a sense of community for them. However, several people found that commitments on the river prevented engagement with Cabot. Friends and activities located in different parts of campus provided an active barrier for house engagement.
It is difficult to take the "first step" and fully buy-in.
- Within the context of the house system, some students have very strong communities within their blocking groups, whereas some are less cohesive. Blocking groups provide sub-communities within the larger house, and can be both reasons for engagement for disengagement in the house community. In many cases, whole blocking groups will embrace the idea of a house community and buy-in together. However, in situations where groups do not buy-in together, this can create a barrier for individuals
When speaking with engaged Cabot students about how they initially got involved, they cited things like close relationships with tutors, pre-existing relationships with upperclassmen in the house, diving into the community with their blockmates, and the ability to find their niche as critical in getting students engaged. As a HoCo, there is little direct influence we have over any of these factors, but I have outlined several steps Cabot HoCo can take to facilitate greater buy-in among sophomores entering the House.
Initiatives to Enhance House Community Among Sophomores
Create More Inter-Class Bonding Opportunities
- Students cite pre-existing relationships with upperclassmen in the house as an important factor in getting involved. As a HoCo, we can do our best to create more opportunities for the sophomore class to become engaged. I propose this is done by creating a Sophomore Engagement Committee as a sub-branch of HoCo. Most members of Cabotâ€™s current HoCo began in Cabotâ€™s Sophomore HoCo-Rep program, a program that allows first-semester sophomores to shadow a HoCo chair. However, the program has severe limitations. This part year, there were 13 applications for 7 spots, and the spots just went to individuals who were already immediately engaged and familiar names to the committee. Those who were not selected as a sophomore rep this past year have been largely disengaged with the house, likely deterred by their rejection into joining an allegedly inclusive community.
Focus on Outreach
- As Co-Chair, I am determined to make the experience of joining HoCo inclusive and dismantle the illusion that you need to be an insider. By creating a Sophomore Engagement Committee, we will provide a space for all students potentially interested in engaging in house life during their first semester. The Engagement Committee will be given a budget to host events targeted at the sophomore class. The Engagement Committee will give more students a specific role and autonomy and feel like they are a valued part of the community immediately. Diving into the community with blockmates was a common theme for engaging with house life, and this initiative hopes to address that and provide more opportunities for engagement. Additionally, there is massive potentially for Cabot HoCo to improve our social media presence.
Address Entry Barriers
- Intramural Athletics are noted as a great way to identity with a house and develop house pride, yet the commute to the river for games is an active barrier in participation. Subsidizing Ubers/Lyfts for Cabot students can reduce the burdens of burden of time and resources while increasing engagement. Additionally, ensuring inclusive food options at all events to cater to vegetarians and vegans can create a more inclusive community with less barriers. Inclusive Food options are not something that HoCo has always been intentional about, and I hope to address that. With that, we hope to continually have conversations with members of the house to provide different food options at each event, because, as it turns out, "Dominoes Pizza can get old really quick."
Support Other Cabot Groups
- While things like study breaks and stein are great to hang out with friends, Cabot students found them ineffective at integrating people into the house. Rather, they are ways to foster the community for people who have already bought-in. Non-Hoco-Cabot-specific events like our formal hall series and spring musical are better at engaging students across blocking groups and class years, and because HoCo is a university-funded entity, we have the capacity to support these groups and create a wide-array of events that can cater to individual preferences. Specifically, HoCo should continue our collaboration with Cabot Theater Board (a Cabot Student Group that puts on events throughout the year in our House Theater) and support them financially in hosting large events like Karaoke. Additionally, HoCo can partner with other Cabot groups like our art studio to have paint nights and our Cafe by hosting events like trivia nights in their space, and facilitate with the groups around Cabot to keep a steady flow of events. It is in noones best interest to have multiple events simultaneously, so the more collaborative the groups in Cabot are, the more effectively we can engage students with varying interests throughout the house.