Hyde House is hoping to become Duke’s first selective social group—and as their members describe it, a more inclusive and open-minded alternative to selective living groups and Greek organizations.
Lindsey Lovitt, a sophomore, said she believes Hyde House functions similar to a selective living group because Duke’s social culture is based upon affiliation, yet the organization has different founding principals and goals. An important distinction between Hyde House and other selective groups is that it is founded on inclusivity, Lovitt said.
“One of our goals in starting the organization is to be able to provide a similar experience for people who aren’t affiliated with traditional selective groups,” Lovitt said. “It’s really easy to feel isolated on Duke’s campus and we wanted to provide a social experience that was more inclusive and community based.”
Opposition to housing
Although its members initially wanted housing and to become a SLG, Hyde House now takes a hard stance against group housing. Lovitt said that a housing section would limit the type of community and number of members able to join.
Duke currently has a moratorium on housing for SLGs that is expected to remain in place until at least Fall 2019, according to the Housing and Residence Life website.
Not having a house or base has not been an issue because the group's members have been active and motivated to attend events, Lovitt said. Hyde member Isabella DeCarlo, a sophomore, said it has been frustrating to find spaces, but getting approved by DSG would allow them to rent spaces, such as the Keohane Atrium, to hold parties.
Lovitt said some students in DSG view Hyde House not only as a new student group but as a precedent of housing reform in the future, and those who do not want to decouple housing from selective groups are hesitant to approve the SSG.
Sophomore Will Brodner, chair of Duke Students for Housing Reform, wrote in an email to The Chronicle that SSGs are an encouraging development for housing reform.
The fact that Hyde House has made it so far in the process shows Duke students believe social groups can exist without housing, he wrote. Brodner wrote that in a system without selective housing, SSGs can be an alternative social outlet for students.
An inclusive rush
Hyde House will have a rush similar to other groups on campus but wants to make the process more authentic and fair, DeCarlo explained. She said that the group is not opposed to rush itself because it allows students to get a feel of the people and organization, but is rather opposed to the decision-making process.
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“A lot of times, when someone rushed a certain organization and didn’t get in, it’s almost like you thought you belonged to a community, and they essentially told you you didn’t,” DeCarlo said.
Hyde House considers only event attendance and proper behavior when deciding who can join, Lovitt added.
She said that a student would not be able to join only if they attended few events or displayed offensive behavior. Lovitt explained that she felt that this objective process is more inclusive than other selective groups, which judge people based on their personality and who they are.
Junior Saheel Chodavadia, vice president of academic affairs for DSG, argued in Senate that Hyde House’s selection process was arbitrary and said its inclusive principles would not remain over time.
Brodner responded to these claims by arguing that the selection processes of current SLGs are already arbitrary and non-inclusive by rejecting hundreds of students a year.
“I think it’s hypocritical to hold Hyde House to a higher standard than SLGs, when SLGs deprive students of certain housing on campus and SSGs wouldn’t have housing at all,” he wrote.
Lovitt explained that she is not worried about having too many members because students naturally self-select into social organizations. By the last week of rush, she said that students had figured out which group was their community, so not everyone rushes the same group. If Hyde House ends up having a lot of members, Lovitt said they will find a way to accommodate the size.
“If you feel that you are a part of a community, there’s no reason you shouldn't be able to be a part of the community,” Lovitt said.
Hyde House’s dues are currently $100 per semester, but Lovitt mentioned she expects them to decrease as the organization gain membership. Members can also apply for a fee waiver or take time off if they are abroad. The group uses the dues to hold events, she explained.
Hyde House started as a joke that became a reality.
Lovitt and a friend—now Vice President Peter Candelora, a sophomore—were talking about making their own social group after not being accepted into the SLGs that they rushed last year. They felt that the rush process was fake and inauthentic, and they wanted to bring a sense of community to those in independent housing.
They reached out to people who were also rejected from the organizations they rushed, and many were interested and supportive of their idea. Lovitt said a few students this year have already approached them wanting to join.
DeCarlo was approached by Lovitt and Candelora last year and decided to join because Hyde House served a role that was missing from campus.
“Before I did Hyde House activities, I definitely had a diverse group of friends, but there was usually a common interest,” DeCarlo said. “I feel like with Hyde House, it’s nice because I know that a lot of these people I wouldn’t have met otherwise.”
She said that during events, there is a strong sense of community, and everyone is excited and open to each other.
Lovitt said Hyde House wants to hold events similar to other social groups, such as parties and community-building events, but also expand to provide a more well-rounded social experience. The group plans to hold events that engage the entire Duke community through discussions and presentations, and they hope to do community outreach in Durham, she added.
“We want to be able to build a community that exists within ourselves but also reaches out and engages the entire Duke community,” Lovitt said.
Although the process to become a recognized student group is simple on paper, Lovitt said it has been long and complicated for them.
After filling an application on Duke Groups, they met with Duke Launch to prepare for their SOFC hearing. SOFC initially delayed their vote to charter the group until narrowly approving them. DSG then brought in Hyde House members to argue their case as senators hotly debated whether to approve them before the senators narrowly voted against chartering.
Lovitt said they are now going through an appeals process and a petition to the judiciary branch of DSG to try to get Hyde House chartered. DeCarlo said that though there have been setbacks, the members feel optimistic they will get chartered.
“The message our current system sends is this: If you want a social community at Duke, you’ll need to fight hundreds of your classmates to get it, because there’s not enough for everyone,” Brodner wrote in his email. “There’s no reason for us to live that way.”