Author: Garrett Reynolds
The Inter-House Council (IHC) is a student-only organization responsible, among other things, for keeping the social houses and super blocks in line. The IHC has historically been composed of the president and vice-president from each of five social houses: Alpha Delta Phi (ADP), Alpha Omega (Tavern), Kappa Delta Rho (KDR), The Mill and Xenia. This academic year, it added two members, each representing one of the two “super block” houses: Palmer and Brooker. The IHC has been most visible determining punishments for ADP and The Mill for infractions during the past few years.
Meetings for the IHC take place every Monday, during which time the 12 members discuss any issues that may have arisen in the previous week. When there is an incident that potentially necessitates discipline, the council is presented with reports from the Center for Campus Activities and Leadership (CCAL), which include information from various sources such as Public Safety and Facilities Services. They then deliberate on an appropriate recourse and make a recommendation to the administration.
The decisions coming from the student-run council are generally respected by the administration, according to Director of CCAL Doug Adams.
“For the most part, we usually accept the IHC sanctions,” said Adams. “Over the years that I’ve done this, they’ve been very well thought out.”
And in the past few years, the IHC has had the chance to prove its resolve dealing with a number of incidents.
During the 2005-2006 academic year, the IHC was tasked with responding to the nearly $1,400 of damage to ADP’s Prescott House and the multiple violations of College policy that occurred there.
After learning of their violation of a rule stipulating that pledge events be substance-free, the IHC initially put ADP on probation for Winter Term. After further violations and two cases of sexual assault that allegedly took place in Prescott House, the administration evicted ADP from their residence and put the organization on probation for the 2006-2007 academic year.
ADP continued without a residence for two years, but regained its residential privileges this year. The full reinstatement of the social house happened under the leadership of recent graduate Chris Angelini ‘08.5, who served as the organization’s president and member of the IHC. According to Angelini, the experience that ADP went through “served as a big learning experience and wake-up call to both the IHC and to the Delta organization.”
In close consultation with the IHC, the members of ADP demonstrated the change their organization had undergone.
“We rewrote our constitution, reworked our leadership structure, our goals and our mission statement,” Angelini said. “We’re essentially a new organization.”
In cases like that of ADP, the student-run nature of the IHC is an advantage, according to former president of The Mill and IHC member Ernest Russell ’09.
“We have a better understanding of student life than an administrator would,” said Russell. “We know each other’s houses and have a feel for their memberships.”
The student-run committee has one peculiar practice regarding their deliberations. The 12 members of the board are never required to recuse themselves from voting, even when the council is dealing with issues that may be connected to certain members. However, members are asked to leave for deliberations of issues concerning their respective social houses. This may seem to present a conflict of interest, but Russell sees this as a non-issue.
“You would be surprised,” said Russell. “The members are willing to punish themselves to maintain the credibility of the IHC.”
Blake Johnson ’10, president of both KDR and the IHC, agrees that the lack of recusal is not a problem. He points out that, if an issue were to occur in which he was deemed to have a conflict of interest, he would pass on his role of moderator to IHC Vice President Alison Mehravari ’10.
The IHC is considered a credible arbiter of social house conflicts because of its willingness to make serious recommendations to the administration.
Russell points out that “if we’re too lax, we’ll lose our authority, too harsh and we become the administration. We act as a buffer.”
But this buffer does not always act as one would expect it to. Adams explained how the recommendations of the IHC look to the administration.
“They have a set of rules that are established,” said Adams. “They have some latitude within those rules and there are times where a sanction might be more severe or less severe than the administration might have recommended. We don’t actually change the recommendation; we don’t tell them what to change it to.”
Another notable incident involving social houses was the fire in The Mill in December 2007. A fire broke out due to unknown causes, a situation which may have been exacerbated by members tampering with smoke detectors. The IHC recommended punishing the organization by evicting it from its residence. The administration ended up hearing appeals from members of The Mill and agreed to mitigate the decision, given that The Mill was willing to eliminate the leadership and have all the members move out of the house, filling these positions with other members.
Despite all the attention-grabbing events of the past few years in which the IHC has been involved, the council has another side to it, playing a proactive role in the community. Johnson explains that it was “mostly set up as a disciplinary thing, but it’s not limited to that.”
The IHC sponsored the Beaux-Arts Ball, a fundraising event for the Warmth program, which took place in the Kevin P. Mahaney ’84 Center for the Arts. The Mill, Tavern and KDR organized the event, which promoted the IHC’s goal of fostering stronger ties among the social houses.