Editorial: Social houses could provide alternative to Greek life

Over the course of one academic year, the social scene at Tufts has changed dramatically. Though the future of Greek life remains unclear, there is no question that changes are going to be made to the system. As part of these changes, Tufts should consider implementing a system of social houses to foster a new type of social life on a campus where Greek life plays a smaller role.

Other schools in the NESCAC have made successful transitions away from Greek life. Bowdoin College had a thriving fraternity scene, though no sororities, through most of the 1990s. This changed when concerns about binge drinking and sexual harassment led the Bowdoin Commission on Residential Life to release a report in 1997 recommending all fraternities be phased out over the span of four years. A social house system was suggested as a replacement. The Board of Trustees approved the report unanimously and eight “College Houses” were established in 1998.

Now, every Bowdoin first-year is affiliated with one of the houses based on the dorm floor they live on, and they have full access to and privileges of the house. Houses sponsor special meals, study breaks, parties, lectures, film screenings and other activities. Upperclassmen can apply to live in the house. Much of the Bowdoin party scene revolves around the social houses, which are inclusive (every student is affiliated with one) and co-ed.

Middlebury College took a similar path. In 1989, the Middlebury Report of the Task Force on Student Social Life stated that ”the narrowly defined, fraternity-dominated social life on campus is incompatible with our vision of the future.” In 1991, fraternities at Middlebury were abolished and four social houses replaced them.

Tufts already has special interest houses such as Crafts House and the International House. But the only way to be truly affiliated with these houses is to live in them, and space is limited. Each house has it own specific niche, and these niches do not encompass all student interests. In order for a system of social houses to be effective at creating an inclusive campus, all students should be given the option to participate in one.

The events of this year have shown that the future of the Tufts party scene is subject to change. Social houses have been successful at peer institutions and can provide a sense of community to students without being exclusionary. As the role of Greek life on campus continues to be debated and discussed, Tufts should evaluate the option of an inclusive social house system.

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