University News

Social action program house approved

Senior Staff Writer
Friday, February 24, 2012

The Office of Residential Life approved a proposal Wednesday to create a Social Action Program House  in Diman House on Wriston Quadrangle. The house was approved after nearly three months of deliberation by ResLife and the student-comprised Residential Council.

The program house will aim to bring together students who have a passion for social justice and service, said Ben Chesler ’15, who spearheaded the effort to create the house. Slated to open next semester, the creators of the proposal are currently recruiting students to fill the available spaces, Chesler said.

Chesler proposed the new program house because he feels the social action community at Brown is “divided,” he said. Though there are many student groups involved in various service projects, Chesler said there is “no real common hub” for them to engage in conversation with one another. He added that there are few opportunities for students who are not involved in projects to simply join the conversation about activism.

“When you have a work space and a living space close together, stuff gets done,” Chesler said. “You could be sitting around at 2 in the morning and have a crazy idea for an organization, and you have the people there to make it happen.”

The proposal for the house was drafted and brought to ResCouncil in November by a group of about 20 students, most of whom are first-years who participated in the University Community Academic Advising Program, Chesler said. The social action house will fill rooms left vacant after Interfaith House closed last spring due to lack of student participation.

“A successful program house fosters a sense of community by bringing people of common interests to a common living environment,” wrote Travis Spangler ’13, chair of the council’s Program and Greek House committee, in an email to The Herald. “Also, (it) provides services to the whole Brown community to help the community as a whole.”

Based on this criterion, ResCouncil advised ResLife to consider the house, and ResLife made the final decision to approve it.

The delay in approving the house has prevented active recruitment.

“We’re a little behind the ball, because we only just got approved,” Chesler said. There is currently a Google document circulating where interested students can sign up, he said. Chesler has been notifying students by emailing listservs and posting information on the Class of 2015 Facebook page.

Proponents of the house will be meeting with Jenna Sousa, housing coordinator at ResLife, next week to determine how many rooms and what types of rooms the house will receive.

Once its residents are determined, “we can start to have the conversation of what this is going to be and how it’s going to function,” Chesler said.