As students across West and Central Campuses prepare to elect house councils, one group of houses has taken a different approach.
Under the newly implemented house model, each house is supposed to choose its own independent house council, a departure from the quadrangle councils of years past. Recently, however, the three Substance Free houses in Wannamaker Quadrangle opted to merge under a single elected house council. The Wellness House in Wannamaker retained its own previously elected house council.
“For Wannamaker, it makes the most sense to have two councils,” said Joe Gonzalez, dean for residential life. “It makes sense to have one group for the Substance Free houses and have the Wellness house be its own separate group.”
Wannamaker resident Ernst Casimir, a sophomore, said that the combined Substance Free council would benefit all three of its houses.
“Instead of, for example, having three different pool tables, this plan allows us to bring all of our resources into one group that everyone can use,” Casimir said. “It will allow the dorm to be more coordinated.”
Sophomore Laurel Koch, who is running for house council president in Craven Quadrangle, wrote in an email Sunday that she had doubts about the proposal, suggesting that houses be kept separate at least at the beginning of the academic year. This would allow them more time to form their own identities and communities before making the decision to share a house council with other houses.
Deb Lo Biondo, associate dean for West Campus, wrote in an email Sunday that the unification of separate house councils did not constitute the formation of a Wannamaker quad council, noting that combining Substance Free houses build on their shared theme.
She added that the houses were given the choice between maintaining independent councils and forming one council, eventually choosing the latter. Wannamaker houses, however, are unique among West Campus dorms because of their small size, which makes the idea of merging house councils more feasible there compared to other quads, Casimir noted.
“[It makes sense] especially for a dorm like Wannamaker, where all of the common rooms are so close, and all of the houses are so close,” he said. “Regarding potential conflict, I don’t see any serious problems arising in the future. I didn’t hear much opposition to the idea.”
Gonzalez said he believes that the merging of house councils does not run contrary to the house model in this instance, though he acknowledges that it is not exactly what was envisioned during the planning stage.
“The residential communities at Duke are incredibly unique, and when you implement a new system, there always has to be some interpretation of that system to make it work best,” he said.