Small Houses Weekend seeks to create community

Morgan Leppla and Colin Trimmer, residents of Crafts House, pose for a portrait on April 11. Alexis Serino / The Tufts Daily

Several special interest houses at Tufts are hosting a series of events next weekend for Small Houses Weekend, according to Morgan Leppla, a sophomore who lives in Crafts House.

Crafts House Manager Colin Trimmer explained that the weekend is intended to bring the various special interest houses together.

“The idea is to build a community on campus, and small houses are an important venue for people to find other people,” Trimmer, a junior, said. “We’re interested in strengthening that bond.”

The events, which take place from April 20 to 23, range from community dinners to gardening projects, according to TrimmerJosh Cohen, a sophomore living in Green House, noted that the weekend offers an opportunity to organize cooperative programming but that the different special interest houses will showcase their own individual themes.

Trimmer said that while there have been interest weekends like this in the past, the special interest houses did not often cooperate on planning and hosting them. He noted that this was an opportunity to change that. Leppla echoed this, adding that it is difficult to organize and build a cohesive community that includes such diverse spaces.

“Crafts [House] is focused on community building. Other houses want to do the same, but everyone is super busy all the time. It’s hard to expect people to have the same mindset,” she said. “We don’t want this to be a burden.”

Cohen explained that the high turnover at special interest houses makes it difficult to develop traditions and sustain programs from year to year. In addition, Cohen noted that special interest housing has the potential to play a larger role in social life at Tufts than it currently does but that many houses face difficulties in developing a presence on campus.

“Some special interest houses have a much larger role in campus life than others,” Cohen said. “The Crafts House, for example, is a big place where people go and hang out … They have a real presence on campus, and I think other houses don’t.”

According to Cohen, this disparity between the larger houses and the smaller houses rests in the fact that some are physically located in their own spaces, whereas others, like Green House, are in suites or apartments.

“We’re 10 people living in a Latin Way suite, so it’s very cramped and crowded, and it’s hard to throw parties or have big events,” he said. “It’s hard to build a community when you don’t feel like the space is really yours.”

Cohen said that the high turnover and the disparity in physical space have contributed to a lack of diversity in viable social spaces on campus.

“I wish there was a larger special interest housing community, where there were mixers or something, because there is a lot of crossover [in areas of interest],” Cohen said.

According to Trimmer and Leppla, the weekend seeks to address this issue by providing a series of visible events that demonstrate the values and culture represented by each house.

According to Cohen, a greater sense of community, coupled with physical expansion for the houses restricted to suites, would allow special interest houses to interact with more student groups in a meaningful way and act as significant social spaces for the Tufts community.

Cohen also noted that this space would allow communities like Green House to host events and activities more regularly, and with more capacity for attendance, than they have been able to in the past.

Cohen said that an expanded special interest housing community would offer viable and intentional spaces to students who feel like they do not have a safe place to socialize on campus or who are excluded from existing spaces.

“Something that we as a campus really lack is cooperation. Every group I’m a part of fights for time and space with other groups as opposed to collaborating on events,” he said.

According to Leppla, this is reflected in the disjointed and transient nature of the special interest housing community. Ultimately, Leppla believes this weekend will be part of a long process of building inclusive community spaces at Tufts, and she encouraged those interested in such a space on campus to attend the events.

“Show up. Make it a hit,” she said. “We can’t make it a hit, but everyone else can.”