The Perkins House, which formerly housed members of the House of Peace and Justice (P&J), has been sold because of a need for extensive renovations.
According to Lauri Strimkovsky, vice president for finance and administration and treasurer, after 30 years of being a part of Ohio Wesleyan University’s campus, the Perkins House has been sold because it is no longer being used as a residential spot for students.
“Rather than allow the building to sit empty and deteriorate, the decision was made to sell it and reinvest the proceeds into other residential life housing projects,” Strimkovsky said.
Members of the P&J House were moved to one of the new SLUplexes built last year, including three current seniors who previously resided in the Perkins House.
Ellen Sizer, Kieran Tobias and Izzy Taylor said they were glad to hear that someone bought the former P&J House instead of it being torn down.
“I think it’s good that it’s being sold, so that hopefully someone can clean it up and return it to what it was,” Taylor said. The residents have noticed a few changes since the site of the P&J House was moved.
Tobias said the former house didn’t have a television, and with the addition of TVs, the house has felt a bit more modern.
“The old house was like a portal into the 70s,” Tobias said. “When you walked in, all you saw were people drawing in sketchbooks or writing in their journals.”
Sizer added that since they moved to a newer house, they’ve attracted a new and wider range of students she doesn’t think would have notice the P&J House before. ButTaylor said the house still holds positive vibes and great energy.
Though they are happy to see the house being sold instead of torn down, these seniors still hold memories in the house that can’t be replaced.
Last year, the house celebrated its 30-year anniversary and held a lunch with new and old members of the P&J House where everyone discussed their memories in the house and where life has led them. Tobias and Taylor said they enjoyed meeting generations of people as far back as the 90s who had shared the same home.
Sizer, though she doesn’t dwell on the past, said she will miss waking up in the quad in the former house.
“The greatest feeling was waking up from a nap in the quad and all you see is sun around you,” Sizer said.
Each of the seniors, though sad to part with the former house, want to emphasize the point that the Peace and Justice House’s meaning is more important than the physical home.
“As important and historical as the old house may have been, I think it’s the spirit of the house that matters more than anything,” Tobias said.
Sizer said, “Our house did everything we could to live in it the longest we could and I am positive about the future.”
Come fall semester, a new Small Living Unit (SLU) will emerge on the block.
The third SLUplex is going to be located at 110 Rowland Ave. between 94 and 118 Rowland, according to an email from Wendy Piper, assistant dean of student af- fairs and director of residential life at Ohio Wesleyan University.
Members of House of Spiritual Athletes and Tree House will reside in the new SLU-plex when it opens in fall 2017, said Dwayne Todd, vice president for student engagement and success.
“The SLUs are an important part of our campus, and with the continued decline of the condition of many previous SLU homes, it was time to relocate them to new facilities,” Todd said. “We plan to build four SLU buildings, each one housing two SLU communities, and are constructing them as funding becomes available.”
Todd said the funding for the third SLU-plex came from “a generous donor who will be named publicly soon.”
In Piper’s email to members residing in Inter-Faith House, Sexuality and Gender Equality House, Peace and Justice House and House of Linguistic Diversity, she said the new SLUplex will be similar in size and features to the current SLUplexes, but will have a slightly modified designed and a different color palette.
All the SLUs share similar features and will house 12 students, but each will have design aspects that are distinctive from the other SLUs, Todd said.
“Just as our SLU communities are all unique, we wanted to be sure to preserve some unique features to each SLU building that houses them,” he said.
The timing of the fourth SLU’s construction is yet to be determined.
Residential Life offers alternatives for groups of students who share similar interests and want to live together. There are theme houses, SLUs, fraternities and now, introducing, a sub-community.
The first of its kind, the proposed Mental Health Small Living Unit (SLU) seeks to provide students with a comfortable space to discuss mental health related topics.
“In college, there’s your three healths …physical health, spiritual health [and] mental health, [which] was the one area where something could be improved,” said freshman Dylan Hays. “Our retention rate was not good, and I think this is a reflection of that. So why not do something to try to improve that?”
Since all the current SLU houses are occupied, the Mental Health SLU was not approved to move into a house, said Wendy Piper, the assistant dean of student affairs and director of residential life.
Although there are counseling services for students to visit if they are having concerns about their mental health, the sub-community is striving to create a more accepting environment to have these conversations.
“We wanted to be a more casual way to discuss mental health,” said freshman Katy Tuggle, president of Active Minds and one of the creators of the sub-community. “For a lot of people, there’s a stigma for going to counseling services. You have to have a really, full, legitimate problem, so this is the middle ground between it.”
Unlike legitimate SLUs, the sub-community will not have a moderator nor a dedicated budget for planning activities, said Piper.
The sub-community plans to re-apply again next year to get into a house.
In the meantime, some members might be living near each other in the same residence hall. They also have the option to apply for funding through the Wesleyan Student Council on Affairs (WCSA) to plan future events.
“Instead of everything being theoretical, we will have actual experience to back [our plans] up,” said Tuggle.
A 200-pound bell, made by senior Owen Kelling, will be settled in front of Elliott Hall over spring break.
The creation of the bell was initially a house project for the Peace and Justice House (P&J). Kelling decided to create this piece in order to represent both the house and school curriculum.
“[Kelling] signed up for an independent study last fall and elected to work on a commemorative bell celebrating 30 years of the Peace and Justice House,” said Jon Quick, part-time professor of fine arts.
The bell has two different sayings: “For Peace and Justice” and “A Coeli Usque ad Centrum,” which is Latin for “to the sky from the center of the earth.”
“It’s a phrase from old Roman property tax code,” Kelling said. “It was a literal definition of infinite personal property. In this context, it’s more figurative and spiritual [of] peace and justice everywhere.”
The frieze embedded on the bell was another reference to the P&J house. “It’s a charcoal rubbing I took of the radiator that’s in my room at pj and then retraced it on the plaster and carved the shape in the plaster so it’s from scratch,” said Kelling.
Kelling cast the bell this past October. “The final cast was a little disappointing due to significant breakout in the cast. But [Kelling] put in untold hours of work, as did I, providing troubleshooting and assistance throughout the entire process,” said Quick.
The bell got recognition after a house meeting at P&J with President Rock Jones.
“Owen has done a great job of promoting his efforts and apparently got the attention of Rock Jones and others who deemed it an appropriate and timely addition to the campus landscape,” Quick said.
The bell tower will be positioned 20 feet over from Elliot, will stand at 11 feet and ring the D note. Kelling mentioned that the bell might ring for commencement this coming May.
Camille Mullins-Lemieux, a resident of P&J, spoke highly of her housemate. “I think that we were excited when we found out he was making the bell. As he made it over the months, the excitement grew. He would bring molds and drawings to house meetings and we would all be in awe each time.”
Mullins-Lemieux said the project was a way to preserve the legacy of P&J.
“It will be here forever and it will be maintained as a landmark,” Kelling said. “It’s going to ring for every single person that goes here forever. That’s really one of those augmentation things I really didn’t expect.”
Dilapidation, bats and bees might alarm some, but for residents of Inter-Faith House (IF) and Peace and Justice House (P&J), leaving that behind means letting go of some cherished memories.
In an email addressed to the campus community on Jan. 27, Kurt Holmes, the interim dean of students, said OWU is vacating IF and P&J at the end of the 2015-16 academic year.
According to the email, both houses have “worsening mechanical and structural issues,” which led to the university’s decision to relocate the houses.
Members of both houses received another email on Jan. 28 with the news that P&J will occupy the Sexual and Gender Equality’s (SAGE) old house, while SAGE will move to one of the new SLUplexes in the coming academic year. IF will also move into a new SLUplex.
“[…] while I was somewhat saddened to know that the structure in which I have great memories will no longer be a part of my life, I was excited to know that the community with which those memories were made would still exist, and would possibly exist in a new SLUplex,” said junior Chase Smith, the moderator of IF.
Smith also said IF did have several mechanical and structural issues. The house does not heat evenly and though OWU’s Buildings and Grounds staff have inspected the issue, the outcome remained unchanged.
“When one half of the house is cold, the other is uncomfortable warm and vice-versa,” Smith said.
Moreover, lights in certain rooms tend to die out and there is a bee’s nest on the front porch of IF, which is aggravated in the warm weather.
“I do think it was necessary for [IF] to be vacated because it was no longer an efficient use of OWU’s resources to maintain the home,” Smith said. “I think the new homes … will be better maintained.”
Junior Emma Nuiry, a member of P&J, said that their house is also in rough condition. The toilets stop up often, their vacuum doesn’t work, water leaks from the ceiling onto a few housemates’ beds and there are bats on the third floor.
Despite these issues, Nuiry would have “relished the opportunity to live in [P&J for] another year,” but she realized that the house’s current state is a liability issue.
Sophomore Izzy Taylor also said that though they understand the administration’s concern about P&J’s worsening physical state, they have learned to adapt to its conditions.
“We love the rich history of the home we live in, and ultimately we don’t think the [current P&J] house is in such poor condition that we shouldn’t be allowed to live here,” Taylor said.
Nuiry also said that P&J is more than just a physical structure that houses students who live there. “It’s filled to the brim with memories, laughter, ghosts, bats, etc.”
She added that the move from P&J to SAGE “is the equivalent of the move from a severely dilapidated house to a slightly less severely dilapidated house.”
Nuiry said the move increases the likelihood of P&J being displaced again in the coming years because SAGE’s house also runs the risk of being deemed unlivable soon.
“Some people may think we are overreacting, but how would you feel if your living situation was constantly up in the air?” she said.
Despite the two houses’ relocation, students can go through the SLUSH process and try to become a member. This semester, IF will be recruiting to fill six spots for fall 2016, Smith said. P&J also has six openings, said Taylor and Nuiry.
More than a hundred years later, Ohio Wesleyan’s Small Living Units (SLUs) are finally getting a makeover.
While construction of the first SLUplex continues on 118 Rowland Ave. where House of Thought (HoT) previously stood, the remaining SLUs are rotting from the inside out.
SLUs, most of which were built in 1901, encounter problems typical to any older home: propping windows open with bricks, bats occasionally finding their ways into the hallway and laying down tarps to prevent a leaking roof, according to multiple SLU members.
The basement and third floor of the House of Peace and Justice (P&J) are off-limits, however, due to lack of renovations and concerns for personal safety, according to sophomore Izzy Taylor, a member of the house.
Whether the problem is a leaky ceiling, overflowing toilet or mold creeping between the walls, each complaint is submitted through the moderator to a residential life coordinator. Buildings and Grounds then prioritize these complaints depending on the immediacy of the concern and availability of supplies, said Melinda Benson, a residential life coordinator.
“It took almost half a semester for a computer to be installed in our common room … a hole in the ceiling over my bed rotted through in mid September, and it took until sometime over winter break for it to be repaired,” said Taylor.
Occasionally students have to relocate. Benson mentioned a student with severe asthma who had to move out due to mold within the facility.
“Some of these houses are so old that the solution will be to close that house down, and move those people to one of the new facilities,” said Benson.
Currently there is one SLUplex being built, a duplex style living facility that will house two SLUs. The master plan is to eventually have four of these SLUplexes along Rowland Ave., but the project only progresses when funding is provided, said Benson. She is hoping that by next year, as the first SLUplex opens, another will be under construction.
As most SLUs are predicted to stay in their current homes, the application process to move into a SLUplex has changed from previous applications.
SLUs will have to submit a proposal to renew and rank their preferences for facilities. Students, staff representatives and one staff member from residential life will then determine based on the merits of the presentation and application who will be the occupants of the first SLUplex, said Benson.
“I hope to see a home that is designed around the community-focused aspect of SLUs … building community and family within the SLUplex is what is most important, as is making the building accessible to all people,” said Taylor.
It’s not Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but it is dinner with Rock Jones.
The president of Ohio Wesleyan has either met, or is going to meet with Small Living Units around campus to talk about the SLU community.
Dinners, teas and meetings have been hosted in the past couple weeks and they have gone just as planned. Jones decided the timing was perfect because of the transition the SLU community is undergoing.
“With coming transitions in the SLU community and the construction of new buildings, I thought it was a good time for me to be in touch directly with each SLU and to experience the dynamic sense of community and purpose that exists in the SLUs,” Jones said.
One of the most recent dinners was with the Honors house. The residents of the house prepared breakfast for dinner and discussed the history of OWU. Junior resident and RA Lee LeBoeuf enjoyed the shared experience, along with Jones.
“I think he liked the food. He mentioned that his family used to have breakfast for dinner once a week,” she said. “We talked about our house’s history, how it became part of the OWU campus and about all the individual members of our house.”
Jones also recently met with the newest SLU on campus, the House of Spiritual Athletes (HSA).
HSA is located in Welch for the time being until they move into one of the new renovated houses next year. Junior Scott Harmanis, along with his housemates, talked about their current situation with the president.
“He wanted to get to know us so we all introduced ourselves and talked about our majors and what we’d like to do,” he said. “We also talked about how the year was going so far and how living in Welch as a SLU was going.”
Like Harmanis said, Jones does want to get the know the SLU community, which is a big reason for the dinners.
“The dinners give me an opportunity to visit with members of the SLU community, to hear about various house projects, to gain new perspectives on life in the SLU community and to talk about any concerns relating to transitions that will come with the construction of new buildings for the SLUs. I have thoroughly enjoyed the conversations and have learned a lot about how the SLUs are functioning this year.”
Jones wants to do this with the whole student body.
“I hope to find a way to replicate this experience with other student groups beyond the SLU community.”
Residents of the Modern Foreign Language House (MFL) and the Sexuality and Gender Equality House (SAGE) are preparing for the possibility that their houses will be razed over the summer.
This is the newest in a series of changes to the small living units (SLUs). While the House of Thought (HoT) house has been scheduled for demolition for some time, MFL and SAGE were not set to be replaced by a SLUplex until a later date.
Residential Life (ResLife) coordinator Levi Harrel said MFL and SAGE may be razed earlier than anticipated because of a forthcoming donation, though nothing is final.
“There is a possibility of a donation being made, and if that donation does present itself, then for the sake of efficiency building two SLUplexes at once would be the most ideal thing to do,” he said.
There will be four SLUplexes built on Rowland Avenue, and each will contain two SLUs divided by a wall, Harrel said. The two SLUplexes in the middle will be mirror images of each other and look more like traditional duplexes. The SLUplexes on the ends will also mirror one another..
Harrel said that though each SLUplex will have a mirror image, the windows, porches, siding and other features will be different.
“For architectural purposes they might look similar, but I think students will absolutely see them individually,” he said.
The MFL and SAGE furniture will be stored by the university at no cost to the residents, Harrel said.
Senior Lauren Rump, a SAGE resident, said ResLife met with MFL and SAGE residents to discuss the possibility of the construction this summer. Though some members of the SLU community are upset about all these changes, she said she is excited about the new houses.
“Although I love the charm and history of my house, I have not enjoyed having to deal with fleas, skunks under porches and things falling apart,” she said.
The displaced SLU residents will most likely be placed elsewhere on campus, and ResLife is working on determining where that will be. The housing selection process for rising sophomores, juniors and seniors has already occurred, which complicates the matter.
“I am mostly sad for seniors who now have less options for next year if the houses get torn down,” said Rump. “Because housing rounds are finishing up and senior housing has already been filled, seniors who might have had a single in their respective SLU and the joy of living in a house their senior year might have a living situation they find less than ideal for their senior year.”
Junior Elizabeth Raphael, a MFL resident, said she had hope for the future of the SLUs.
“I think the SLU community is a very strong one, and I would like to see that continue,” said Raphael.
At the start of each spring semester, OWU’s Small Living Units seek new members ‒ but they’re running into increased competition with fraternities, most often for male candidates.
“I think that the fraternity system here at OWU, the fact that it’s residential, is why the gender ratios are so skewed in the SLUs,” said Citizens of the World (COW) House moderator Kerrigan Boyd, a senior.
“…In some ways it’s kind of cool that the SLU community is primarily driven by women, just because I feel like there are so…few things in society that are, but I feel like we strive for a community that’s inclusive of a variety of diverse backgrounds, including gender diversity.”
In terms of gender, OWU’s student body as a whole is 54 percent female and 46 percent male, according to the OWU website; data on non-binary students was not available and is not recorded by the University.
Non-binary, as described by sophomore Women’s House (WoHo) resident Rowan Hannan, refers to a gender identity that is different from the one assigned at birth; this includes a wide variety of genders beyond assigned and self-identified male or female.
A survey of SLU gender demographics finds that there are more than four times more women in SLUs than men and at least three non-binary students, including Hannan, who live in WoHo.
These statistics were provided by SLU moderators and some residents; there may be additional non-binary SLU residents whose identities aren’t fully known or realized, and were not counted accurately as a result.
Senior Meredith Harrison, WoHo moderator, said the SLU community tends to be fairly homogenous as a whole.
“We have a lot of cisgender, heterosexual white people; it’s predominantly female,” she said.
Low male participation – and a new exception
“There are absolutely less men who go through that (SLUsh) process, but I think at the end of the day that is a choice that our male students have to make (between fraternities or SLUs),” said Levi Harrel, residential life coordinator for the SLU community.
The Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) between Ohio Wesleyan and the seven residential fraternities currently on campus require all fraternity members to live in their houses, unless they work for Residential Life or the houses are above capacity.
“I can understand why the university wants to fill all the (fraternity) houses, because it’s more efficient that way,” said senior Brian Cook, president of the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC).
“At the same time, I think I can understand why SLUs might be frustrated with that process.”
The MoUs make it rare for active fraternity members to live in SLUs, although there are some ways they can do both at the same time.
The most likely way for active fraternity members to live in a SLU would be if their organization is non-residential ‒ such as Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) or one of the National Pan-Hellenic Council groups, nine traditionally African-American Greek organizations. Currently, no one is using this option, however there will be a member of FIJI in the House of Spiritual Athletes next year.
While FIJI will be a residential fraternity again starting next semester, the chapter will be above occupancy due to increased recruiting in the past. It’s not known yet whether HSA will have a house or if it’s members will be living in other housing, though.
With ten members, HSA’s residents will make up half the male population of next year’s SLU community, but they plan to recruit women in the future.
“We had interest from some women, but there were a lot more guys interested and we didn’t want to have an awkward guy to girl ratio,” said freshman Conner Brown, one of two candidates to be HSA moderator.
“We do plan to offer and integrate women into the SLU in the future but we knew we may not even have a house this next year.”
The second most likely exception is if they are the moderator ‒ equivalent to a resident assistant for dormitory life, thus exempting them from the Greek residency requirement.
There is one actively Greek male moderator, senior Noah Manskar, who’s also the only male moderator this year. To do this, he had to join his SLU, become moderator and then go Greek ‒ then be selected as moderator again to remain in the house.
The structure of this year’s fraternity rush and SLU rush (SLUsh) processes also required potential new fraternity members to make a decision on their bids before receiving SLU interview results, leading several male students to opt out of SLUsh entirely.
Challenges with fraternity recruitment
“I’ve heard of a lot of men who drop out – they do start slushing and then they drop out because they get bids,” said senior Meredith Harrison, moderator of the Women’s House.
The House of Peace and Justice (P&J) was hit particularly hard by this ‒ originally four men signed up for interviews, but three received fraternity bids and withdrew from the SLUsh process to accept them.
“We had one (man), out of 21 people (who applied),” said Manskar, P&J’s moderator.
“I think we have definitely noticed a decrease in the amount of men who have applied to houses this year,” said junior Reilly Reynolds. “I think all the members of the SLUs have.”
Reynolds is moderator of Tree House, which had 17 students apply during this SLUsh season. None of them were men.
“I really don’t think it’s fair to the guys, because they have to make a decision on Greek life before they make a decision about SLU life,” she said.
Sophomore Cindy Hastings, also a Tree House resident, added that the low gender ratios can also deter some non-Greek men from the SLUsh process, as they may not be as comfortable applying and interviewing at an all or mostly-female house.
The Women’s House encounters this in more than most; Harrison said the current name may discourage some men from applying. This year they had two men apply, which she said is “really good for us.”
While it’s rare for men to be involved in SLU and fraternity life simultaneously, students can do both over their four years at Ohio Wesleyan, and several have. In most cases, though, they leave their SLU to go Greek, rather than the other way around.
Senior Kyle Simon is one of those who’ve done both ‒ he lived in the Women’s House (WoHo) his sophomore year before moving into Chi Phi last year.
“It was really, really wonderful,” Simon said about his time in WoHo.
While he enjoyed the experience, he found Greek life offered a different type of community that appealed more; close personal friendships with future fellow members also led him to Chi Phi.
Simon remains active in some SLU programs, and credits his dual experience of SLU and Greek perspectives as being really helpful.
“I think they’re really good options for people, but they’re completely different types of structures,” he said.
“Every SLU and every Greek organization’s so different that it’s not really the same decision (to join one or the other.)”
Harrison said Simon’s done a lot to connect her house and his fraternity after leaving, though the two organizations already had a strong connection.
During Take Back the Night, an annual Women’s House event, members of Chi Phi will guard WoHo in its residents’ absence. This safety measure is due to a 1984 incident where two male students threw a smoke bomb into the house and nearly burned it down.
“I feel like, as far as fraternities go, we’ve always had a really good relationship with Chi Phi,” Harrison said.
Benefits of Greek and SLU overlap
Alpha Sigma Phi also has a former SLU resident, junior Scott Woodward, and current SLU resident Noah Manskar.
Woodward lived in the House of Thought (HoT) last year and moved into Alpha Sig this year after accepting a bid.
“Deciding to slush and live at (HoT) was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in college,” Woodward said.
He decided to rush to learn more about the Greek community, something he hadn’t considered joining before coming to college.
“Leaving House of Thought for Alpha Sig was the definition of bittersweet,” he said, but the commitments of both would have been too much to handle on top of academics and clubs.
Brian Cook, president of the Inter-Fraternity Council, is also a member of Alpha Sig and he described the benefits the chapter has received from having SLU members.
“The people that tend to join SLUs, at least in our example, (have) a different way of thinking about things than people who may be prone to join a fraternity so it’s good to have that kind of diversity of thought flowing around,” Cook said.
In particular, he discussed how Manskar has integrated one of his Peace and Justice house projects into Alpha Sig’s OWU chapter community.
Two years ago, Manskar hosted a V-Men workshop for the campus, but had a small turnout of 15 participants.
V-Men is a program created by the V-Day organization, which also created the Vagina Monologues, to bring men together around the issue of violence against women and girls.
After joining Alpha Sig last spring, partly to integrate SLU ideals into the fraternity community, Manskar held the workshop within his new chapter.
“All of our guys loved it and we really appreciate him doing that,” Cook said; the chapter is now making it part of their new member education process.
“At least in our example those guys (Manskar and Woodward) were willing to take the charge on that, because of their experience with holding those kinds of programs in their own SLUs,” he added.
While Meredith Harrison said she hopes for more fraternity-SLU outreach, she sees a lot of positives in the relationship between SLUs and OWU’s sororities.
“For Women’s Week, a lot of sororities support it and I think that is because we have so much Greek representation in our house,” she said.
This year, the Women’s House has had one member from Kappa Alpha Theta, one from Kappa Kappa Gamma and two from Delta Zeta, though one of them withdrew from the university after the fall semester.
“(SLU membership) does impact (the sorority community), but in a natural way because they’re living with different people, so they get to share those things that they’re learning with different people,” said sophomore Jocelyne Muñoz.
“They get to get other perspectives, so (it’s) definitely a positive.”
Muñoz is community development director of OWU’s Panhellenic Council, the sorority equivalent of IFC, and a member of Delta Gamma.
Strong bonds between SLUs and sororities
Unlike fraternity members, sorority members cannot live in their houses at Ohio Wesleyan, and so a sizeable percentage of the female SLU community are also sorority members.
Of the six female SLU moderators this year, for example, four are in sororities.
“(SLU life) encourages more active members in the OWU community,” said junior Natalie Geer, president of OWU’s Panhellenic Council.
Muñoz added that living in the same SLU “absolutely” connects members of different sororities, and that the presence of sorority members in SLUs “definitely” brings their non-SLU members to events.
“There is (an) impact from having your sisters in (SLUs) so more of those sisters will attend those events because they’re involved,” she said. “But I don’t think it should stop others from attending those events, just because they’re getting that (sorority) support anyways.”
At the Citizens of the World (COW) House around half the female residents are in sororities but this doesn’t have a significant impact on the House culture, according to moderator Kerrigan Boyd.
“I think that people who are involved in SLUs and Greek life a lot of times are leaders and people that really strive to be deeply involved in the OWU community,” said Boyd, also a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma.
“…I think that having people who are leaders in multiple settings, not just SLUs, doesn’t isolate us; I think that that’s been a strength.”
“I think my experience with all the Greek women I’ve lived with is they are fully part of both,” said Noah Manskar, Peace & Justice House moderator.
“They hold officer positions in the sororities and they put on great house projects here. I think it’s good that the SLUs are kind of integrated with the sororities…(they) seem to mesh very well.”
In P&J there’s an even split this year: six affiliated women, six unaffiliated women, and five men. Among the sorority women of P&J, there is one Kappa, two Tri-Deltas and three Kappa Alpha Thetas.
Kappa Alpha Theta has the highest number of sorority SLU residents, with eleven.
A safe space for other gender minorities
Each year, SLUs must go through a renewal process; this year the Women’s House requested to change their name to the Sexual and Gender Equality (SAGE) House after lengthy discussion among current and potential new members.
The change was part of a deliberate strategy by moderator Meredith Harrison to make the house more queer-inclusive. Queer, used as a positive term by Harrison, refers to non-heterosexual sexual and romantic orientations and non-binary gender identities.
“This year, we started having conversations about the house name and how it could be really alienating to our non-binary housemates or trans men on this campus,” she said. “…I’m really proud of my community for wanting to become more inclusive.”
Hannan, who joined the house at the start of this year, said they’ve been able to better understand their gender identity because of their time in the house and the supportive environment it’s residents provide.
“Because we continually work to create a safe space, it has allowed me to explore my gender as well as the way I perceive others,” Hannan said.
“I often forget that when leaving the SLU bubble that people will not ask for my pronouns, will assume my gender based on the way I present, and will often not acknowledge the existence of non-binary genders.”
While they could only speak from their own experience, Hannan said they thought the SLU community can be more comfortable than Greek life for non-binary students.
“Fraternities and sororities literally represent the gender binary,” they said. “…However there are trans and non-binary people who are happy in fraternities, and I think it isn’t something to necessarily be generalized.”
The number of non-binary SLU residents for next year will increase from at least three to at least five, and not all of them will live in the SAGE House.
“I have only experienced one slush with the house so I can’t speak to a trend, but there were several non-binary applicants this year, and I know there have been in the past,” Hannan said.
“I wouldn’t say there is more, but I feel that PRIDE and SAGE have both done very well this year in creating an atmosphere of acceptance and safety, and allowed people to explore and come out in their identities.”
Harrison added that the house’s name change reflects a growing trend in the feminist movements that SAGE reflects.
“Women are not the only gender minorities – the trans community, non binary people, you can’t ignore that and you can’t ignore that in feminism, you can’t ignore that in the queer movement,” she said. “So I think changing the name and the mission statement is absolutely necessary for how gender politics are going.”
Hannan said they want to create more safe spaces for non-binary students, but also “brave spaces” where students can “challenge what people say and try to educate others and create a genuine dialogue.”
“The best way to be an ally to people of other identities is to listen, and to use your privileges to challenge ignorance, and empower others,” they said.
Gathered in the tiny living room inside House of Thought (HoT), all 10 Small Living Unit (SLU) residents got together to express their grievances.
The subject at hand: HoT’s application for renewal was denied, and as a result, the SLU will not be returning.
Senior Todd Zucker, a resident of HoT, said they were told by Residential Life (ResLife) staff that there were several problems with their application.
“We felt that the house has struggled to meet occupancy and complete house projects this year, which indicate their lack of sustainability as a community,” said Wendy Piper, director of ResLife at OWU.
These occupancy concerns, according to the residents of HoT, are unfair.
“We had all of our spaces filled,” said senior Felicia Rose, the house moderator. “Two of our new members had not officially ‘checked-out’ of their old dorms, so they weren’t ‘officially’ residents of HoT when we submitted the application for renewal.”
Rose added that the two new members had tried to contact their Resident Assistants (RAs) to check out of their dorms, but their RAs had not responded to them.
Zucker said the house had seven people last semester.
“We have 10 people living here this semester, and 10 people were lined up to live here next semester,” said Zucker. “Despite all new members knowing that this house was going to be razed, and we wouldn’t have a house.”
Levi Harrel, a residential life coordinator (RLC) and a member of the SLU selection committee, said all SLUs are required to have 100 percent occupancy throughout the entire year.
HoT had only completed two of the required 11 house projects at the end of last semester.
“It was expected that they complete at least half of the required house projects by the end of the first semester,” Harrel said.
Rose says ResLife told her that the house had the entire year to complete their house projects.
Rose said it is hard to know the rules or what ResLife expects from them when there are no written guidelines or rules for SLU members.
Harrel said every member of the SLU community is required to perform one house project per year. House moderators are required to complete two.
Junior Sarah Richmond, a resident of HoT, brought up the point that SLUs are the only non-dorm living option for women.
“Men get to live in a fraternity or a SLU, but women are not allowed to live in the sorority houses, so this is the only place I can live if I don’t want to live in a dorm,” Richmond said.
“Each year, Small Living Units must submit a proposal for renewal and be selected as a SLU for the following year,” said Piper. “Students also have the opportunity to propose new SLUs each year.”
In addition to the HoT’s denial of renewal, a proposal for a new SLU was accepted by ResLife for next year.
The House of Spiritual Athletes (HSA) will be joining the OWU community in the fall, Piper said.
Freshman Conner Brown, one of the founders of HSA, said they will be one of the first SLUs to be completely substance free.
“We will strive for a high standard of maturity and morality, and, as a group, we believe that a substance-free environment is the best way to help us achieve that goal,” said Brown.
The last time a SLU’s application for renewal was denied, according to Piper, was the Creative Arts House in 2010.
“In 2010, the Creative Arts House submitted an application that we initially did not renew on account of our concerns for their physical structures that were located at 110 and 114 Rowland Ave.,” Piper said in an email. “Ultimately, we worked to keep Creative Arts House open amidst certain plans to raze the structures in 2011. The Creative Arts House submitted an application in 2011 but was not renewed. Coincidentally, the last time that we had a SLU that was not renewed and a new SLU that was accepted in its place was when the House of Thought replaced the House of Spirituality in 2003.”
Duplexes on Rowland Ave.
In June of this year, Piper said the university has plans to raze the structure at 118 Rowland Ave.
“We are currently surveying the property and working with a team of architects to determine what the best location will be for newly constructed SLUs,” said Piper. “We hope to have a confirmed site very soon so that we can make plans for construction to commence over the summer.”
Many SLUs are in poor physical condition, according Zucker.
“It usually takes the school about a month to fix something in the house when it is broken,” Zucker said.
Harrel agrees the structures are in poor physical condition.
“It is just time to update the structures, they need it desperately,” Harrel said.
Harrell said the university plans on building a series of duplexes over the next several years to which the SLUs on Rowland Avenue would be relocated.
“It makes sense to start building at 118 Rowland Ave.,” said Harrel, “As it will be the first building to be demolished.”