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January 15, 2016

Undergrad House Will Move to I-House, Replacing Graduate Student Housing

One of the undergraduate houses whose dorm will be closed next year will move into International House (I-House), College Housing announced Wednesday. This means that I-House will house no graduate students for the first time in its history.

College Housing previously planned to move all nine house communities from Blackstone, Breckinridge, Broadview, Maclean, and New Grad into the new Campus North Residence Hall, where they would form eight new houses. Per this change, one house will instead move into I-House and retain its name. As a result, none of the nine retiring houses will be merged as initially planned.

“I’m very happy that we are no longer forced to make the decision about which houses merge,” said second-year Andrew Yin, a representative on the Special College Housing Advisory Committee (SCHAC). “Every house that is part of SCHAC really has its own unique culture.”

According to Yin, SCHAC was also informed in a Wednesday morning meeting that the house moving into I-House will still have about 100 members, just like the houses moving into Campus North.

In order to accommodate the additional house, graduate students will not be housed in I-House until the next residence hall is constructed in a few years, at which point the University plans to reopen I-House to graduate students. I-House will continue to offer a variety of internationally-focused programs and events.

An FAQ provided by the University states that the plan is designed “to accommodate an increasing number of College students on campus in fall 2016.”

Houses from each of the closing residence halls are invited to submit a survey ranking their options—Campus North, I-House, or no preference—along with a 250-word essay, both due January 26, to College Housing & Residential Services, who will review the surveys and make recommendations to Dean Boyer, who will then make the final decision regarding which house will move to I-House. Students from these houses are guaranteed a spot in Campus North if they want one, regardless of whether their current house moves to Campus North or I-House.

All nine relocating houses will receive “celebration funds” totaling $10,000 in order to honor their current house and establish new traditions. Up to $6,000 can be used this year, with the remaining amount set aside for the 2016–17 school year.

UChicago’s I-House is one of several International Houses across the globe, which were opened with funding by John D. Rockefeller to offer international graduate and undergraduate students at various universities a diverse learning environment. For Kirsten Wiard-Bauer, a fourth-year from Booth House in I-House, converting I-House to an entirely undergraduate residence hall threatens this distinctive history.

“I believe that international students and grad students are an essential part of the I-House community,” Wiard-Bauer said. “I’m really disappointed that it’s happening. It’s completely going to change the flavor of I-House. International House is one of several International Houses across the globe, and that fact that UChicago is losing it to undergrads is, frankly, rather insulting.”

In “The Kind of University that We Want to Become,” a paper on College Housing written by Boyer in 2008, he suggests undergraduates be removed from I-House after the construction of three new undergraduate dorms added enough alternative on-campus housing. Two dorms, Granville-Grossman Residential Commons and Campus North, have been added to campus after that paper was written. “We should not to try to turn International House into another ersatz College residence hall,” Boyer wrote. “The latter facility was not designed for the purposes of housing undergraduates, and it would be completely inappropriate for the College’s residential system.”

At an emergency house meeting on Wednesday night at Breckinridge Hall, one of the closing residence halls, residents debated the benefits and drawbacks of moving to I-House instead of Campus North. Students generally favored moving to International House because of its convenient access to public transportation into the city, its range of programming and events, and its perceived stronger house culture, but others argued for Campus North’s proximity to the dining hall and recent construction.

To some students, neither move would preserve Breckinridge’s most distinctive features. For example, both Campus North and I-House have smaller common areas than Breckinridge does, which students say threatens Breckinridge’s strong house culture.

Others, however, insisted that housing is what students make of it.

“We can’t control a lot of the things we’re trying to control with location at the end of the day,” Mimi Taylor, a first-year in Breckinridge said. “We’ll still have the same people, so the same type of culture will be encouraged.”

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