Every year, Carleton’s Housing Selection Advising Committee sets aside six spots for interest houses, which are decided through a review process in the winter and spring.
For the past 25 years, the Carleton Association of Nature and Outdoor Enthusiasts has occupied one of those spots – but CANOE will no longer inhabit its familiar location in Chaney House next year, as it was not one of the six interest houses selected by the committee.
“The Housing Selection Advisory Committee, comprised of one hall director, six RAs, and six students were in consensus that CANOE house did not perform as well as the six houses that we selected in the selection process,” said Patrick Gordon, the Hall Director for Burton, Severance and Davis Hall, who chaired the committee.
The announcement has been received with shock and sadness by many in the Carleton community.
“CANOE house has always been warm and welcoming to all,” said Sophie Daudon ’13, who has lived in CANOE house for the past two terms “We’re really sad.”
Daudon added that to her, CANOE was an important place for the outdoor community to come together, a sentiment with which many other students agreed.
“CANOE provides a friendly and open environment which is really important to the Carleton community,” Reid McMurry ’13 said.
Although he does not live in CANOE, McMurry said CANOE house has been an important part of his experience at Carleton because it “works hard to create a community outside of [just] the people who live there.”
Current Carleton students are not the only ones who care about CANOE house’s continued existence. A post by an admissions blogger about the situation received 21 comments, most of them overwhelmingly in favor of CANOE house’s existence and importance to the Carleton community.
“I am so disappointed with ResLife’s decision to remove the CANOE interest house,” read one comment by a 2010 alumni. “While I was never a member of the club or house, the presence of a physical location dedicated to the love of the outdoors greatly enhanced my experience at Carleton.”
Added another Carleton graduate, “I had many wonderful experiences at Carleton, but a disproportionate number of them happened during my senior year, when I lived in CANOE house. When I return to Carleton, CANOE house is always the place I visit first and last.”
Gordon acknowledged that the decision has caused a very emotional response but stressed that HSAC had worked through a difficult process to come to their decision.
“The selection process functions to give an equal and fair opportunity for all to apply to best present their interest group,” he said.
He also stressed that the process had involved “quite a long discussion among the committee with many difficult decisions.”
The decisions were not helped by the fact that 13 interest houses applied for a place next year, significantly more than usual.
“Having 13 groups apply definitely made it that much more competitive and difficult for those six houses to be recommended [or] chosen this year,” he said.
“It’s tough,” agreed Steve Wisener, the Director of Residential Life. “In the past year we’ve had maybe seven, eight groups apply for the six spots we set aside for interest house living.”
The six groups chosen include all of the current interest houses, as well as the Wellstone House of Activism, which successfully reapplied for a spot after being absent from campus this year. Ultimately, Wisener said, the process “came down to quality of interviews” because it was so competitive.
Unfortunately, said Wisener, there were six houses that put together a better application, or gave a better interview, than CANOE.
“[The] way that CANOE was represented through the process did not indicate as strong of leadership, vision, organization and impact on the community [as] is clearly indicated by the response from the community,” he said. “For that, we truly do wish that they had more accurately portrayed their community through the process.”
The student response to the decision has been emotional. Daudon noted that a petition to support CANOE house had gathered over 700 signatures. Representatives from CANOE have also met with Wisener, Gordon, and even President Steven Poskanzer.
“Carleton students have done a really god job of showing their support,” said McMurry. “People really care about the house.” He added that CANOE house was especially important because while student athletes frequently cannot attend the weekend trips planned by the CANOE organization, they can still find a solid community that “is really supportive about helping people to pursue their love of the outdoors.”
“CANOE house embodies what Carleton is all about,” Daudon said. “People [in that community] are intense and dedicated and passionate, but know not to take themselves too seriously.”
She added that in selecting members to live in the house, current house members “try to take from a wide range of friend groups, [so that] they represent a broad range of the Carleton community.”
Other Carleton students agree that CANOE house has an important positive effect on the community.
“As a prospie, CANOE house and Farm house were the only houses I had heard about, and CANOE house was one of the things that made me really excited to come to Carleton,” said Arielle Koshkin ’14. “I thought it was great that Carleton had an interest house that could foster that kind of community.”
Wisener expressed willingness to help CANOE continue as an organization without an interest house this year.
“The response from the CANOE house community has indicated that it did not feel that they were accurately represented through their application and the interview,” Wisener said. “For that, I really do hope to look into finding ways of improving the process for future years.
“For next year, CANOE will not have an interest house – but Residential Life greatly supports the efforts of the CANOE community and is working with them to find other ways and accommodations to support their community needs.”
One thing that is certain is many students will miss the barbecues, quirky events, good food and fun programs that CANOE house worked hard to create.
“CANOE is open to anyone who stops by,” said Daudon. “It’s a gathering place for the outdoor community to come together.”