To improve Simmons culture, some talk of dorm revolution

Proposal would split dorm into 10 independent houses

On September 11, Simmons’s discussion mailing list, sponge-talk, went aflame after the release of Proposition 10, a GRT’s effort to expedite the development of dorm culture within Simmons. Proposition 10, an unofficial document, calls for the division of the Simmons government into ten autonomous sections, each responsible for its own budget, constitution, freshman recruitment, and GRT placement. The proposition reflects the dissatisfaction among residents about the lack of dorm culture in Simmons Hall.

While splitting the government into autonomous sections would force Simmons to build smaller communities, Sarah B. Laskey ’11, Chair of Simmons’ House Committee, does not think that Proposition 10, as designed, would fix the problems facing Simmons. “The problems they’re trying to address with [Proposition 10]…are real and worth looking at,” she said.

Simmons President Christina R. Johnson ’11 (also president of the Dormitory Council) said that “it would not be sustainable to try and run ten different governments.”

For some Simmons residents, living on a particular floor or tower has never meant much to them. Sarah B. Laskey ’11, Chair of Simmons’ House Committee, said that “there are places in [Simmons] where people don’t leave their rooms, the halls are quiet, and you don’t know your neighbors.”

According to Simmons resident Samuel M. Thompson ’12, dorms like Burton-Conner and East Campus have distinct cultures associated with each floor or wing. “Often times groups move from year to year so you don’t have that kind of wing situation that you have in East Campus, where one floor has one specific kind of their own community but it’s not permanent and it’s not localized.” He believes that the architecture of Simmons, with “rooms like caves,” makes it especially difficult for the community to build dorm culture.

Lounge communities at Simmons

Johnson suggested that better communication within Simmons could make the lounge system and rooming lottery process more effective. The lounge system in Simmons was put in place to encourage the creation of smaller communities, but Johnson said that the residents are not exploiting it to its full potential.

A lounge is a group of at least 10 residents who decide to become officially recognized as a social group. They can request funding from the house committee to organize outings, dinners, or other social activities. The members of a lounge need not be living on the same floor or tower. Currently, 194 residents are members of lounges, each lounge with a minimum of 10 members.

Laskey explained that one reason why residents are hesitant to use lounges is the reimbursement process, which is slow and complicated. Another reason why lounges don’t organize events as frequently as they could is the inability to gather together on a whim. Lounges must give advance notice to the government for events, thus hindering spontaneous events.

Svetlana M. Chekmasova ’11, who moved out of Simmons into East Campus, expressed that the lounge system “wasn’t as widely used as it could have been.” According to Chekmasova, many Simmons residents choose rooms based on room size and layout rather than the location of the room and proximity to friends’ rooms. Chekmasova said that when groups of friends don’t live close to each other, the funds allocated to their lounge are less likely to be used for outings or dinners. Chekmasova suggests that the Simmons government create a rooming system that allows residents to stay in the same geographical area within the dorm. “If you want nicer rooms, that happens within that section. You stay in the same tower…You don’t have to pick rooms over community.”

Lacking government participation

Of the entire Simmons Hall of approximately 340 students, only a small percentage is involved in making decisions for the dorm. “The government is two dozen kids who are doing everything,” Laskey said. House meetings are open to all residents, but the attendance is unsatisfactory. “There are 20 people there and those 20 people are making decisions for the whole dorm. It’s reasonable to say we want more people involved.”

The level of disinterest in Simmons affairs was highlighted in an incident last year, when one particular floor of Simmons submitted a proposal to buy a television for their lounge. At the house meeting, the majority of attendees constituted of that lounge, and as a result, the proposal to purchase the television was passed with zero resistance.

Since then, Johnson has been optimistic. She believes that Simmons is still relatively new, and only now are people beginning to be curious about house meetings.

Johnson said that the government’s next steps to improve the Simmons living experience involve the newly formed Constitution Reform Committee, whose job this semester is to work on rewriting the Simmons Constitution. Johnson says that “a lot of the discussion that was going on about Proposition 10 will definitely be a recurring topic during the constitution reform committee discussions” and that they will consider “taking the bits and pieces from Prop 10 that [they] think could work.” By doing so, the Simmons government hopes to achieve “continued and better communication” of the methods with which underclassmen, especially freshmen, can define their own dorm culture.