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2012 Spring Issue 3 (April 20, 2012)

A plea to save CANOE House, beloved Carleton tradition

April 20, 2012
By Marlena Hartman-Filson

Last weekend, I received an upsetting email: after considering all the applications for next year’s interest houses, ResLife has decided not to renew CANOE as an interest house. Each year, all existing houses and proposals for houses are required to submit applications to ResLife detailing how they would/how they do add to the Carleton community. I’m not exactly sure how the process works, but I know they then gauge interest in the house and assess how well the house reaches out to the rest of the student body through activities and events before approving the house for the next school year. Some of the current houses include Women’s Awareness House, Farm House, Queers and Allies House, SciFi House, Dacie Moses House, Multicultural House, and Fitness House.

CANOE (Carleton Association for Nature and Outdoor Enthusiasts) house as been a staple of the Carleton outdoors community for at least 25 years. I lived in CANOE for four terms, beginning fall term sophomore year, and I’m proud to be part of such a long history of adventurous Carls. Despite having almost 45 applicants for thirteen spots in next year’s house (as far as we know, this number is higher than it’s ever been), ResLife feels that all the main goals of the house could be fulfilled by the club alone and a residential space is not necessary. Additionally, they critiqued the house for “lacking vision and new ideas”.

This is not meant to be an unproductively grumpy article, but I am a bit surprised that ResLife would, without any prior criticisms or warnings, nix a house and community that has been such an enormous part of my happiness at Carleton.

During my time living in the house, my housemates and I worked hard to keep longstanding traditions alive and implement new activities that connected the house to the broader Carleton community. The Black Bean Burger BBQ in the fall, the long underwear party in the winter, and the EcoChallenge in the Arb in the spring are staple CANOE House activities, and in the last couple years we’ve added pumpkin carving, Planet Earth Week, igloo building and a spring pig roast to the list. The house provides a meeting space for CANOE club board members, a place for CANOE club members to brainstorm, plan and organize their next trips, and a warm, welcoming home for friends of the outdoors.

Many of my best Carleton memories and most lasting friendships have come as a direct result of living in CANOE house. As a year-round varsity soccer and ultimate frisbee player, I almost always have practices and games on weekends. Because of this, I’ve only been able to go on two CANOE club trips in my three years at Carleton. Both of these were fantastic experiences - my freshman year I went on Book Across the Bay and last year I went on a dogsledding trip up in the Boundary Waters - but I can’t say they provided me with lasting connections with most of the other students on the trips. I initially applied to live in CANOE because I wanted to live in a house with a group of people who were excited to be young and alive and able to frolic around in leaf piles and snow drifts and spring rain. Although I understood I would never be able to be as active in the club as I wished I could be, I knew that the sophomores and juniors and seniors who lived in the house would share my love for adventure and passion for the outdoors. I was right; I have fallen in love with my housemates in a way I never imagined I could.

CANOE house fosters a community that extends outside the walls of the house and even outside of Carleton. For me, the free time in which I can explore the outdoors comes mainly over winter and summer breaks. Last winter break, a past and (at that time) current CANOE house member, a mutual friend and I all found ourselves in the San Francisco Bay Area with a free week. And so we decided on a whim to go backpacking in the Grand Canyon. Last summer, a CANOE house friend visited me in Colorado and we went on a weekend excursion to the snowcapped peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park. Because of the close friendships I made while living in CANOE, I now have connections with explorers and adventurers all across the U.S. (and abroad!). This is not a community I could have found easily through CANOE club nor on the general campus.

News that ResLife has chosen to discontinue the house for next year has come as a bit of a blow, but I am not disheartened. I understand the school’s desire to make room for new interest houses and I am confident we can work with ResLife and help them find a way of doing so without nixing an integral part of the Carleton community. Current and past house members have already begun to organize letter writing, tabling at Sayles, meetings with ResLife and class deans, alumni outreach, and campus awareness activities and petitioning. And if it doesn’t work out this year, we will come back in full force with an unbeatable application next year. We will do everything in our power to ensure that CANOE house remains a home base for happy, goofy, energetic people who are passionate about exploring and adventuring in the outdoors.

Submitted by Marlena Hartman-Filson ‘13 on behalf of CANOE House

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