Several members of the class of 2021 are outraged after discovering through word of mouth that this year’s superblock program granted Turner House and Homer Harris, typically reserved for rising seniors in the general housing draw, to rising juniors in early March.
The college added these small houses to the superblock pool after the number of superblock applicant groups more than doubled between this year and last. The number jumped from six for the 2019–2020 cycle to 14 for 2020–2021, according to Assistant Director of Residence Life Kady Shea. The majority of applicants were rising juniors.
Superblocks, which conventionally include large houses available to upperclassmen through an early application process, were originally listed this year as 48 South Street (KDR), Homestead House and 97 Adirondack View. Interested students were asked to apply for one of the three houses with a proposed theme and student roster. Some groups were thus surprised to receive emails requesting they cut down their groups to fit into Turner and Homer Harris, as well as Jewett House (formerly the Wellness House) after Homestead was removed from the process to serve as the new Wellness House location.
“We wanted to honor the number of superblock applications we received, so we looked for other spaces on campus that could be used that wouldn’t have a broad impact on the larger community,” said Shea in an email to The Campus. “We were very intentional in trying to not use some of the most popular junior/senior housing. For example, we had specific requests for 107 Shannon Street and 248 College Street (Beach House) and felt that due to the popularity of those spaces, they will remain in the general room draw process.”
These housing reconfigurations have yet to be communicated to students, and many rising seniors were confused and disheartened to hear of the changes through peers. While the Covid-19 crisis disrupted much of the overall housing process, superblock assignments and the off-campus lottery are among the earliest housing proceedings. Both were completed before Middlebury’s evacuation, barring seniors from the chance to apply to live off campus or join the superblock application process in the wake of this information.
Henry Cronic ’21, who heard from a sophomore friend that they had been granted one of the senior houses for the 2020–2021 year, was initially in disbelief.
“I told them that’s ridiculous,” said Cronic. “The school would never do that without telling everyone first.”
Cronic was one of many seniors hoping to draw a high enough lottery number to live in either Turner or Homer Harris, which some consider to be among the best housing options on campus. Although both juniors and seniors are permitted to apply for superblocks, rising seniors jockeying for small houses were assured they needn’t apply. Throughout the process, the 2020–2021 superblock website read, “Small senior houses (e.g. 637 College Street, Turner House, Homer Harris House) are not available as superblocks.” This assurance was retroactively removed from the site once the houses had been filled.
“For seniors to not even have a chance to ask for them is ridiculous, especially if they were following the rules and waiting to go for them,” Cronic said. “It’s extremely tone-deaf and they made the decision to not tell seniors about it.”
The applicants themselves were similarly perplexed. Each group had entered the process with a roster of students equipped to fill a specific house, therefore requiring them to reconfigure post factum to fit the new options. One group that originally applied for 97 Adirondack View, which houses eight, was asked to cut three people from its initial application to fit into Homer Harris, which accommodates five. Another group that originally applied for Homestead, which houses 15, was also asked to cut three people to fit into Jewett, which sleeps 12.
Per superblock tradition, each of the five superblock houses will be home to a specific interest presented by their respective groups during application. Jewett House will be dedicated to meditation and mindfulness; KDR will be committed to community engagement; Homer Harris will be focused on sustainable design; Turner will be centered around relationships, care and consent. 97 Adirondack View, formerly home to PALANA House before its move to Palmer in the last housing cycle, will become the International House and will serve as a workspace for the International Student Organization.
According to Shea, the addition of Turner and Homer Harris was considered carefully. “I realize there may be some students who may be upset and confused about the use of Turner and Homer Harris as superblocks, but overall, a lot of intention and thought was put into these superblock applications” Shea said. “I feel confident in our decisions and I look forward to seeing how these groups build community on campus.”
However, Elizabeth Callaway ’21 expressed similar frustration to Cronic.
“They publish an official schedule and we wait patiently to comply while, unbeknownst to us, they are disregarding the process,” said Callaway. “Senior year is an irreplaceable opportunity to be with our friends after being scattered across the world during junior year and before dispersing across the country for jobs. The houses they gave away were some of the best opportunities for seniors to have that time together in a way that a lot of other options can’t provide.”
In an email to all students on Thursday, Residence Life acknowledged that the housing process had been set back significantly but did not address the superblock draw nor offer a timeline for the remainder of the assignments. “Rest assured that we will be running Room Draw for the 20/21 academic year as soon as possible,” it read. Shea predicts that this process will not start back up again until May.