Understanding Common Interest Housing

During the housing process, students get multiple opportunities to apply for different housing options. One way to get group housing is to apply using the common interest system, through which students can choose to live in groups based on a shared interest. Some students feel that the common interest system can be taken advantage of, but its stated requirements seem somewhat rigorous. During the application process, groups must indicate their shared interest, attend a one-hour info session, identify a faculty adviser, propose their idea and be interviewed by REAL staff in early February. Once a group is living in a common interest space, they must make an effort to educate community members on their interest, host at least one event per semester and prepare an end-of-semester evaluation.

When I approached the REAL office about common interest, they claimed that the process cannot be manipulated for personal benefit. “The application process creates a system for students to not take advantage of the system,” the REAL Office stated.  “Once we receive your application, we also need notification from a Faculty or Staff adviser to the group saying that they support your mission and programming ideas.”

They noted the fact that the application process requires a large amount of motivation; the application has gotten more difficult in recent years. Unlike in years past, the application is now due earlier in the spring semester, and faculty advisers must now be present for the application interview. While the common interest process gives certain students first priority in choosing houses, the REAL office always saves at least half of the houses for the independent living process, which takes into account lottery number and a paper application. There is a slight issue with favoritism for the common interest program because applicants get first priority. However, because most of the apartments and houses are similar in size and floor plan, saving at least half of them for the independent living process aims to mitigate the problem fairly.

When interviewed, students who did not participate in the common interest program voiced concerns of fairness. Several opposed the idea of common interest program participants choosing housing first. However, for the most part students were not upset. Lucas Guliano ‘17, lives in a Winchester Road apartment through the independent living process. He said, “It doesn’t upset me that they get to pick first, but the odds seem stacked against you when applying through the independent living process.” Students within the common interest program, however, speak highly of it. Nako Kobayashi ‘17 has lived in common interest housing for the past two years and feels that the common interest program makes a significant contribution to the community here. “I think common interest is a cool way of getting more people involved, because I never would have organized my own event if I wasn’t in the common interest housing program. Because you are linked with a professor as an advisor, it is easier to get the event promoted and organized.” Kobayashi and her housemates organized an event with Professor Manuel Lizarralde, during which Lizarralde led a group a group of students through the arbo and gave them a chance to try the many edible plants of our arboretum.

The REAL office also feels that common interest housing contributes to the community here, citing the group CC Smokehouse. CC Smokehouse has organized more than their required amount of events, and next year they plan to explore other ways to barbeque and offer vegetarian options.

Common interest housing has developed and become an even stronger program since its realization four years ago. The program has given students an opportunity to organize their own events, and promote their interests on campus. While some students may feel the housing selection process lacks complete fairness, the common interest program has made contributions to the campus community.