If you’re currently enrolled as a student at Principia, chances are you’ve experienced some variation of one of the following scenarios.
It’s 1:00 a.m. on a Thursday night and you’re finally ready for bed. Unfortunately, it seems your neighbors are having a raucous party next door. One guy in particular is just a little bit too loud. You know you’re supposed to knock on the door and quietly inform the group that it’s past house hours, the guy needs to go home, and you really need to get some sleep. But who really does that? Haven’t we as students gotten used to ignoring this behavior on our halls?
If that situation doesn’t sound familiar, perhaps you’ve been engrossed in a late night heart-to-heart with a friend who really needs someone to talk to. You glance at the clock and realize you were supposed to leave almost an hour ago. You feel a little bad about staying, but you want to continue your conversation and it would be awkward to take a break and move out into a “24-hour” zone.
Despite all we know about house hours and the reasons they’re in place, they’ve always been something of a touchy subject. Students certainly have a variety of opinions on the issue. You might personally respect house hours but still wish you had more control over them.
Dean of Students Dorsie Glen understands this controversy well. “What I have heard is that there are times when people don’t like house hours, but they don’t want to get rid of them.”
So, in a further effort to encourage self-government, Student Body Presidents Laura Buchanan and Ron Meyer are proposing a change. Specifically, they hope to address the issue of house hours so that individual boards can name and enforce their own. In a conversation with Dean Glen, Buchanan noted that the proposed change could give students “more ownership” of the rules set for this campus. She added, “I think students would be more likely to follow house hours [if they were able] to create them.”
Just to be clear, house hours will continue to play a key role in the Principia experience, even if the Office of Student Life (OSL) allows students a bit more leeway in the decision-making process. Glen reinforced this fact when she said, “If the choice was [for houses to remain open] 24 hours, I don’t think we would support that.”
For those who may not know, house hours currently exist at Principia as a way for houses to develop their own bond and enjoy some peace and quiet at a time when members of the opposite sex are temporarily asked to vacate. They also serve as a tangible reminder of the school-wide standard against premarital sex and cohabitation.
As a general rule, accountability and self-government are two of the biggest discernable themes on house boards across campus this quarter. Starting with house leadershops during Week One, individual house boards came together to write commitment statements to share with their peers. While boards chose to spotlight different issues based on the needs of their houses, each group seemed to stress the importance of being held accountable for one’s actions. Many students already express this sense of accountability through the use of the Matthew Code, in which students engage their peers in honest conversation about an activity that seems inappropriate or somehow violates Principia standards.
Based on recent history, there is some concern at the administrative level that encouraging students to actively enforce their new rules is easier said than done. OSL has been burned in the past in terms of allowing students more freedom to influence house hours. According to Glen, when campus-wide house hours were relaxed in the 1990s, OSL approved an enforcement policy that placed the responsibility of upholding house hours directly with the student body. Glen explained: “That fell by the wayside.” Looking into the future, Glen explained: “We have a picture of what [students] might choose, but we don’t have an actual commitment [to] what they’ll choose.”
Residence Director Josh Sprague brought up the point that a stronger willingness to enforce the current house hours policy could make the case for extended or changed house hours seem more legitimate. Sprague explained: “I would much rather see us demonstrating at a higher level that spirit of Matthew now so that we know that we’re ready to take that next step.”
Sprague continued: “We’re asking the question: ‘Okay, what’s really changed? Will the students actually hold each other accountable for house hours if we go in this direction?’”
At the same time, Glen acknowledged that students can be reasonable about house hours. She explained: “I would imagine that most houses like the fact that the house is closed at certain times.”
Buchanan reinforced this point by explaining that, at a recent Presidential Board meeting, each house president was asked to write down what house hours they would prefer if given the choice. None of them were told ahead of time that this information would be used in a practical way. According to Buchanan, “There was one quasi-radical answer, but for the most part they looked very similar to the way they do now, with small changes in one direction or the other.”
Buchanan added that many of the house presidents made a general request for current weekend house hours (2 a.m. to 10 a.m.) to be applied to all days of the week.
Sprague restated the fact that an official proposal for a change to the house hours policy has yet to be made. He added: “I imagine this conversation will result in some sort of proposal, because right now we’ve just been dealing in hypotheticals.”
Whatever happens with the house hours proposal in the near future, both Glen and Buchanan agree that student government and OSL will continue talking through the issues. Buchanan highlighted the fact that “It’s not a confrontation between student government and OSL at all. We’re trying to work together on it.”