You might think them the lucky ducks who circumvented the room draw, but each of the groups behind next year’s newly minted community houses are preparing to add a new dimension to life at Haverford. Between Yarnall and the apartments, five groups from a crowded pool of applicants were awarded spaces by the Office of Residential Life.
Alex Dillaire ’14 says these community houses will add “support that’s not really provided for at the moment” on campus.
Dillaire spearheaded Christian House, which will be living in HCA 23 next year. They will be joined in the apartments by Culinary House (14), Ehaus (15) and Quaker House (50). Nerd House, which will live in Yarnall, rounds out the group.
Brandon Henken ’16, a member of Nerd House, shared Dillaire’s opinion that the value of community housing lies in its ability to fill the gaps in Haverford culture. Nerd House, he suggested, will serve as an alternative to parties and alcohol on the weekends. “It’s like the soy food of the party scene,” Henken said.
Henken emphasized that the term nerd refers to the nature of the house’s focus and interests—from steampunk fashion, to board games like Settlers of Catan, to online pursuits like League of Legends, to movies like Blade Runner—and not to the antisocial qualities one might often associate with the word. In fact, the group plans to do plenty in the way of reaching out. “It’s a big umbrella, a big tent,” he said. “We want to have a big tent to include a lot of people.”
“We’re looking for that community involvement,” said Casey Falk ’16. Falk and Henken say that Nerd House’s outreach to the rest of campus will come in the form of holding movie parties, inviting others to come play board games and offering to host the meetings of various clubs. The house will also talk to FAB about potential joint projects next year.
The formation of the Nerd House group was itself an instance of multiple groups teaming up.
“It was kind of a friends-of-friends situation,” Falk said of the way the group came together.
Yarnall has two separate common areas—one with a projector—which appealed to the group in their hopes to form an inclusive, multi-purpose space.
Yarnall is being returned to its status as a community house after this year’s failed experiment to run it through regular room-draw. After all but three of its residents applied for mid-semester room draw, Residential Life decided to empty Yarnall for the Spring semester.
“When you have individuals that come together separately, sometimes it never jells,” Director of Residential Life Marianne Smith said.
“It’s a hard group of people to organize,” added Coordinator of Residential Life Franklyn Cantor ’11 of the 13-member house. However, he added, “It is a great space, and if it’s the right fit for the right group of people it’s a lot of fun.”
Christian House, unlike Nerd House, chose to keep the size of the group smaller and go for an apartment. The idea to pursue it, according to Dillaire, arose shortly before spring break. Between on-campus dinner conversations and off-campus news of people who refer to fundamental Christians as “terrorists,” Dillaire says he sometimes feels Christianity is unfairly feared and misunderstood. The members of Christian House hope to change that perception at Haverford.
“We wanted to create the apartment to become the calm atmosphere for Christians to go,” said Dillaire. “[Christian House is] just somewhere it’s really OK to be religious.” And that’s not limited to one sect of Christianity, Dillaire says, as residents include a Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian and Protestant Christians, as well as a Deist and Buddhist.
According to Dillaire, one of the main focuses of the house will be the Christian tenet of community service. The group is already in touch with a variety of churches in the area, including Manoa Community Church in Havertown. Manoa opens up as a homeless shelter for part of the year, and Christian House plans to assist with the effort by cooking meals and delivering them to the church.
Christian House also plans to hold many discussions, both planned and spontaneous, about topics religious and otherwise. Students will be welcome to come by for such discussions, or even “ to just ask us about how we live our lives,” said Dillaire. “Christianity is not something to be scared of.”