Ideas to Make HoCo More Inclusive
For my project, I looked at House life at Yale. I chose to focus on Yale because they have a similar dormitory life as Harvard where you are randomly sorted into a house that you have to live in for the majority of your time. I got in contact with one student from Yale who is the equivalent of a co-chair of his House Committee and another student whom I had a mutual friend with who was able to give an outsiders perspective on the work that House Committees do.
Implementing a Mentor SystemA few things about Yale dormitory life that I think would be a good idea to adopt in Harvard House life is their mentor system and the random assortment earlier in the college experience. The House that my mutual friend is in is called “Silliman College” (Yale also refers to their Houses as “Colleges”). Silliman has a mentor system called Sillisibs which is a program run by the House that pairs upperclassmen with new members of the dorm. I think this is a great idea because the beginning of college is a difficult time for adjustment and it is always helpful to have someone more experienced there to help guide you. Also, I think it is a great way to get people from different years to mingle. In my House, I am noticing that it has been hard to get the sophomores involved in house life. I think this program can help sophomores feel comfortable in their houses earlier.
House Committee members can help make this program flourish by putting a lot of thought into how the pairs are buddied up. House Committees could send out a survey to both upperclassmen who want to be mentors and rising sophomores that ask them questions about what their academic interests are, what their hobbies are, what music they listen to- a survey that is very similar to the one that is used to match freshmen roommates. After everyone takes the survey, members of HoCo and tutors can work together to try and pair up mentors and mentees. I think it is most important to try and match personality more than academic interests for this peer mentor program, but if both coincide then that is great. I would also like the mentor to meet with his/her mentee at least once a week for the first month that they are sophomores in the house and also at least once when they are still freshmen. Ideally, the underclassmen keep their upperclassmen mentee and they get a new mentee the next year. This way they can generate a “family” of mentors and the rising sophomore has a whole network of built in friends even before they start living in the House. The end goal of this mentor program is really to bolster house spirit and the way to do that I think is right at the get go when the freshmen first hear what house they are in and they are still excited. When they start meeting people in the house, it gives them more of a reason to be excited and hopefully go to more HoCo sponsored events when they enter the House.
Delegating House Committee DutiesAnother idea that I think would help House Committees become more inclusive is to have different committees do different jobs- or to have more members on my House Committee to lessen the burden on the eight people who are part of it. The leader of the Morse House Committee that I talked to said that the main purpose of the House Committee is to “demystify the nuances of the housing process, specifics of how housing is run differs in each residential college.” And the events that the House Committee holds include “information sessions and room lottery draws. Besides that, our residential college dean takes everyone in the housing committee out for a pizza lunch after the housing process is completed.” After hearing this I realized that the Housing Committees at Harvard are asked to do a lot compared to that at Yale. Their Housing Committee is only responsible for dealing with questions students have about housing. Each College at Yale has a different committee for each program that is run within the college. For instance, Yale has a committee to run the peer mentor program, a separate committee to plan social events for the college, another committee to run IMs, and another committee to answer questions about housing.
It makes sense to me that Yale separates these tasks into different committees because speaking from experience being on HoCo at Harvard takes a ton of time and work- more than a student can even imagine. Also, if we separate the tasks that HoCos currently do into different committees then more members of the house can get involved. And the jobs are specialized so it would mean less work for everyone and having people who want to do the job that they signed up for. A related idea is to just expand the size of the Harvard HoCos- or at least Quincy’s HoCo. Quincy is the second biggest house at Harvard, yet we have the smallest HoCo with only eight people. A HoCo that size is much easier to manage, but it puts a lot of pressure on the eight members to organize events for the entire house. If we added even just five more people we could expand the social chair positon to three people and maybe even have at- large members who do not want to commit fully to being on HoCo, but want to be there when they can to help set up events or want to attend meetings. With a set up like this, I feel like Quincy HoCo would be much more inclusive and approachable.