• The Students Make the House

    House culture constantly evolves as new students join the traditions

By Nicola Brown
Photo by Rob Kozloff
October 13, 2014

As the school year begins, so many things are new: classes, professors, work schedules. But something else has also changed, something unexpected for many students.

At UChicago, the House is not just where students live, but also where they make their closest friends, where they study, eat, relax, and join in activities in the name of tradition. But as new students move in and upperclassmen graduate or move into apartments, it is also a place where the culture is constantly evolving to accommodate new friends and new spins on the traditions.

“I think one thing that you have to accept is that house cultures change, and change is not a bad thing. It’s not ‘let me insert you into Talbot’, it’s ‘what is Talbot now?’” Talbot House RA Himabindu Poroori said. “It is going to be a different house each year. And that’s fine. Token things stay the same, but not necessarily culture, and that’s a good thing.”

For example, a new tradition was born at Talbot last year during a game of Midnight Soccer. With only seven players versus a much larger turn out from Kenwood House, Talbot played hard, but accepted inevitable defeat. During that game, however, a new House chant took hold. It’s a call-and-response between Poroori and her residents rooted in a joke that she can no longer remember. But how it started doesn’t matter anymore, because now the chant is a part of Talbot as a whole, something that gives the students a sense of unity as a House.

But just as important as new traditions is the knowledge and culture passed down from the older students to the first-years. This is why O-Aides are so important, Poroori says. They are the first students that first-years get to interact with from the House and they represent the House as a whole, teaching them where the House table is and passing down advice.

“During Fall Quarter, I see first-years looking to their O-Aides for guidance. ” 
— Himabindu Poroori, Talbot House RA

Ruvim Ginzburg, an O-Leader from Wendt House, says that encouraging students to spend time in the House lounge is important. Lounge culture helps unite students as one collective body, getting rid of the divide between old House residents and new ones.

“Uniting factors are house activities and lounge culture, mainly,” said Ginzburg.  “Intramurals also help.”

The O-Team and other older students are crucial in helping to allay first-year fears and help them feel part of a community, Jen Mastnjak, an RH from Dodd-Mead House, adds.

“Older students have learned a lot and love to share their advice with the first years, who are eager to learn from the mistakes and successes of their older housemates,” said Mastnjak

As a fourth-year studying chemistry and geophysical sciences and a Resident Master Assistant, Matt Go of Dodd-Mead House said that culture within the House and the dorm as a whole really help to bring people together as a community.

“Usually, the first- and second-years dominate the House, and they end up defining what the House is and creating the House culture,” he said. “At the same time, as an upperclassman, I try to maintain some old Dodd-Mead traditions that have been around for years, like our Kangeiko/Kuvia winning streak.”

When it comes down to it, House culture is what students make it, whether that means shouting a newly made up chant on a soccer field or waking up absurdly early in the morning for Kangeiko, like sixteen generations of students before you, to do sun salutations in the snow. It’s the mixture of old and new that makes the House, the House.