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Is East House substance-free? Miscommunication from HRL fuels confusion about dorm's policy

At the beginning of the year, East House residents were informed their hall was substance free. The next day, that was reversed. 

After the first resident assistant meeting of the year Aug. 21, where residents were told that their dorm would be substance free, students were swift to voice their protests against the policy change. East House is not the typical location for the Substance Free Community—Jarvis has historically been the only substance-free dorm on East Campus.

"Only Jarvis is substance free," wrote Joe Gonzalez, assistant vice president of student affairs and dean for residential life, in an email to The Chronicle. "There was some confusion about this when the building opened, but students have been updated."

Gonzalez also sent an email to East House residents Aug. 22 apologizing for the blunder in communication.

“Unfortunately, we dropped the ball in communicating about this change within the Housing & Residence Life team so your Res Life team was operating under the original plan that East Res Hall would also be substance free,” Gonzalez wrote to the residents.

He wrote that there were more individuals than usual who requested substance-free housing, so HRL originally made plans to put both Jarvis and East House under the policy. Conflicting interests such as the FOCUS program and sports housing made it difficult to place the students who had actually requested substance-free housing.

East House residents discovered that they were under substance-free policies on the first day of move-in, when their RAs brought substance-free agreement forms and told residents to sign them.

“We found out in our first RA meeting," first-year Eli Vail, an East House resident, said. "He brought out the sheets of paper that you have to initial which say that its substance-free. We were looking around the room and somebody asked if anybody had signed up for it, and not a single person in the room had.” 

Out of 10 East House students asked by The Chronicle, none of them said they had requested substance-free dorms. They all said they would object if East House were to shift to a substance-free campus. 

Sophomore Amit Sarma, a resident assistant for East House, wrote that "a majority of my residents said that they were not aware that East House was a substance free dorm" when he passed around the contracts.

All of East Campus is "dry," meaning that no one is allowed to possess alcohol on campus. However, students in the Substance Free Community are required to sign a contract pledging that they will not consume any alcohol, tobacco or drugs or show up to the dorm under the influence. Substance-free residents will be relocated if they cannot abide by the policy, according to the contract.

Students request this type of housing in order to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who do not wish to use substances to alter their educational experience, several Jarvis residents told The Chronicle. 

MJ Williams, director of housing assignments and planning, stated that East House was not supposed to be substance-free.

“It was never substance-free," she stated. "There was a miscommunication."

Nathan Luzum contributed reporting.

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