Author: The Occidental Weekly Editorial Board
There are several different venues through which students can live in themed living communities at Occidental. To live in Berkus House, anybody may apply individually, but to live in the “Norris Themed Village,” students create their own theme and then handpick the other students who are allowed to live there. This application process encourages exclusivity, contradicting the objective of meeting new people who share a common interest. The goals outlined on Residential Education and Housing Services (REHS)’s website describe themed living housing as an opportunity for community building and integration of the academic and residential experience. Under the moniker of a theme, the current system simply provides another avenue for friends to live together, rather than benefitting the Occidental community at large.
Perhaps this process was necessary to ensure that themed housing would be filled during the initial expansion of the program. However, as the student body is aware that the college offers themed living, the themes should be open to every student, not just the acquaintances of the creator of a theme. This current system goes directly against the goal of enhancing the “potential for community building among the residential population;” therefore it is time for REHS to transition the program.
There are distinct differences among the various themed housing options. While the themes that have been permanently established have sustained programming, those that change year to year are not able to make the same impact. When the theme stays in place and only the people change over time, the community is more built around the theme than the people. The effects of a permanent theme, such as Multicultural Hall, are consistent with what the fundamental goal of themed housing should be.
The community of Occidental does not benefit from themed housing so long as it remains closed off to students outside of a pre-formed group of friends. Instead, after a student proposes a theme, REHS should open the housing option to the entire student body. The purpose of a residential campus is to encourage community building both academically and socially, and by closing off interested students from themed living based on the fact that they do not know the theme’s creator, the college is preventing the full benefit of themed housing from being realized.
This editorial represents the collective opinion of the Occidental Weekly Editorial Board. Each week, the Editorial Board will publish its viewpoint on a matter relevant to the Occidental Community.
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