ResEd Closes Culinary House
After two semesters of operation, the Culinary Program House will close at the end of the year. According to Director of Residential Education Molly Tyson, the College decided not to renew the program house after a visitor stayed in its off-limits attic last semester. The theme house, which began operation in September, is a small cooperative centered on gourmet cooking.
Early in the year, members of the house violated city ordinance and College policy by entering its locked attic, which lacks adequate exits. Later, in November, a visitor stayed in the attic for three days until Facilities staff discovered that it was occupied. “We knew the attic was locked and we weren’t supposed to be up there,” said Sophia Potter, a Conservatory senior and the current house president.
This is the first year that the College has had theme programs in village housing. Culinary House founder Nathan Leamy, OC ’06, introduced the concept to ResEd last year, and both Culinary House and Botany House were founded upon it. Next year, the only themed village house in operation will be SEED House, an experiment in environmental sustainability. Botany House is not being renewed.
Tyson and Michele Gross, ResEd’s director of business operations, helped Culinary House get started last year. They say that they hoped theme houses would bring a stronger sense of community and responsibility to village housing, but they now have mixed feelings about Culinary House, which hosted a number of meals and other events last semester.
“On the programmatic side [it] did very well,” said Gross, who helped the house get kitchen equipment and purchase food.
Given the house’s accomplishments, it particularly bothered ResEd staff that all of the house’s residents were aware the attic was being used, despite knowledge of its off-limits status. “I can’t tell you how disappointed and upset we were,” said Tyson.
In early December, administrators considered a number of ways of addressing the situation. According to Tyson, “it was recommended by Facilities and Operations that they lose the house.” ResEd decided not to evict the residents, in part because of the success of their programming, but did decide to close the program next year.
House members, however, did not know that they would be unable to renew the house until February. Leamy, who was president last semester but graduated in December, claimed that College staff told them only that the incident would be considered when ResEd decided whether to renew the house. The current and former members of the house collectively wrote a letter published in last week’s Review in which they described the situation and “the unwillingness of ResEd to deal with the matter in a fair and judicious manner.”
“None of the people who had anything to do with the incident would be living in the house,” said College junior Maya Silver, who herself moved into the house this semester and hoped to live there again next year.
Current members of the house hope that it will be able to operate again in the 2008-09 academic year and are looking for first-years and sophomores interested in organizing it.
“We actually want them to reapply,” said Tyson.
ResEd is also trying to avoid similar problems with theme houses in the future. “We are requiring the SEED group to create community standards,” said Tyson.
ResEd staff will also communicate directly with all members of each house rather than only with a liaison.
The Culinary House is hosting a seven-course meal tonight and members plan to put on at least two more events this semester. “We’re going to try to go out with a bang,” said Potter.