On Monday, March 18, Community Council went into executive session to continue the discussion from last Tuesday on whether to accept the Social House Review Committee’s recommendation to disband Delta, the social house organization currently residing in Prescott house. By 5:50 p.m. the Council had voted on a motion to approve the Committee’s recommendation. The majority of the Council felt that this course of action was the most appropriate, with 13 members voting in favor of the disbandment of Delta, four members voting against and one member abstaining.
Community Council’s formal recommendation will now be passed to President of the College Ronald D. Liebowitz, who will make the ultimate decision on the fate of the house.
Both co-chairs of Community Council emphasized that multiple factors were weighed during the decision-making process.
“We considered the input from Delta and input from the Residential Life Committee,” explained Student Co-Chair of Community Council Barrett Smith ’13.
“All letters, emails and comments that were either submitted to the Council or made at the open session last week were considered during the Council meeting,” wrote Dean of the College and Co-Chair of Community Council Shirley Collado in an email.
“[Our recommendation] is on President Liebowitz’s desk. He can sign it tomorrow; he could sign it at the end of the year. It is really up to him from this point on,” added Smith.
Regardless of Liebowitz’s decision, the students who currently reside in Prescott will continue to do so until the conclusion of this academic year.
If the organization is officially disbanded, those students will be dealt with on an individual basis should disciplinary issues arise, whereas in the past, they faced disciplinary action as an organization.
“Prescott house residents will continue to live where they have been living, they don’t have to move out at this point in the year … but they will need to abide by college policy,” said Associate Dean of Students and Chair of the Residential Life Committee Doug Adams. Violation of policy in the event of disbandment, Adams explained, could potentially result in removal from the house and placement in any other available space on campus.
“One of the huge benefits of being a social house is that you have collective responsibility,” said Smith. “The Inter-House Council (IHC) reviews information from Public Safety and recommends action against the house, but not against individuals.”
“Clearly the choice of Community Council is not what I wanted the outcome to be,” wrote President of Delta Luke Battle ’14 in an email. “That being said, we did not follow the wishes of the administration.”
However, Dan Lungo ’13, former president of Delta, explained that the organization will continue working to fight the recommendation by meeting with Liebowitz this week and ultimately appealing the decision, if it comes to that.
“We are going to tell [Liebowitz] why we should stay together as a social house and what Delta means to the community at large,” said Lungo. “We had a petition of approximately 750 signatures of students supporting us and managed to get that in a week. The student body, at least a large portion of the student body, loves what Delta provides and it would be a shame to see it go away.”
“I think the best solution would be to allow our members who planned to live there next year to continue to do so, without the title of a social house,” wrote Battle. “This would allow the social benefits of the house to continue while also keeping tighter control of the issues the house has had in the past.”
Lungo also expressed concern over the potential length of the appeals process; if it extends beyond the housing draw period students who are currently slated to live in the house next year may be forced into summer draw. He noted that the timing of this decision is “hard.”
Collado and Adams confirmed that, pending Liebowitz’s approval of the recommendation to disband Delta, Prescott would likely be offered as open doubles and singles for draw next year. In the years to come, though, the house could be used as a social house once again.
Adams explained that if students chose to re-form the organization in the future, and potentially petition for Prescott house, Community Council would be heavily involved in the process.
“Community Council would need to give some direction around what it felt was appropriate [for the space], and I think we [Community Council] would want to hear from Inter-House Council and what students would like to see in that space.”
“I think that its imperative that both Palmer and Prescott are social houses in the future,” said Smith. “The houses were built to be social houses and I would urge students to step up and form social houses. Students create the social life here and all it’s going to take are the right students to step up, organize and create new social houses.”
This decision comes on the heels of an extensive biennial review process of the social houses conducted by the Residential Life Committee, a body made up of students, faculty and staff that holds the dual purpose of conducting the review process and providing a forum to address residential issues on campus. Delta leadership participated in three separate meetings with Adams and other members of the Residential Life Committee before the final recommendation was submitted to Community Council.
Adams emphasized the issues of dorm damage and unregistered parties as a prominent concern during these meetings.
“It didn’t seem to the committee that there was a clear direction [from the Delta leadership] when it came to addressing the dorm damage issue,” said Adams. “The methods that they decided to change [around addressing dorm damaged led] to the second issue, which was unregistered parties.”
“Generally there is going to be a lot of vocal heat for the decision, but I think that there is a diversity of opinion,” explained Smith. “I think the supporters of Delta are more vocal, while people who do not support them have been more tacit.”
Though this diversity of opinion made the decision difficult, Collado is confident in the integrity of the process.
“I have been deeply impressed by the thorough and thoughtful work of Community Council members as they made an important decision for the Middlebury campus community,” said Collado. “In the end, I believe this decision was guided by strong data, serious reflection and a commitment to the College’s Community Standards.”
Lungo confirmed that he felt that the process was fair and professional, but that disbandment was not a solution to the larger issues on campus.
“[Community Council] failed to see the larger implications of shutting us down, and they wanted to blame us instead of looking at the larger culture of the school,” said Lungo. “What was happening [at Delta House] was a product of the culture here at Middlebury, not us creating this culture at the school.”
“I think that over the next few months and years the administration will see that they have not solved the problem, they have only displaced it to locations that are not suited to handle it,” added Battle. “It could show very quickly that they have made the issue of the lack of social scene on this campus even worse.”