Program houses are one of my favorite things about the College. Since I was fortunate enough to be placed in Westminster Cottage as a first-year, I have managed to live in a program house for my entire tenure here at Wooster (save one summer in Bissman which still haunts me at night). I think it speaks a lot about Wooster that we use our off-campus houses as a reward for students who do service, rather than as status symbols for national fraternities and sororities or as luxury options for wealthy students.
However, the statement would be stronger if the program houses themselves were a little more livable.† As a resident of Shearer House, I can say that living here makes us question daily whether the College actually likes us. We share one decrepit shower with not only our whole house but also the host of spiders and crickets in the basement who like to hang out there.† We are still waiting on the substantial cache of work orders we filed at the beginning of the year that range from cracked light fixtures to holes in our doors.
And this is not just my house.† Iíve lived in four houses on this campus, for instance, and only one has had adequate shower facilities. The standard cement-floored, poorly-irrigated basement shower with insufficient curtains for privacy and at least one broken showerhead has followed me for the majority of my college career ó from Westminster to Gable to Shearer. And now that weíre actually paying an extra $200 in room and board for these lovely conditions, I think the time has come to speak out.
The problem is, of course, numbers. There are 31 program houses on the Wooster campus and each one only houses between seven and 14 students. The conditions in Babcock clearly demanded a renovation ó one that improved the lives of 150 students. For seven students, itís understandable that the expense is just not worth it. So instead, stop-gap measures and face-lifts have to suffice. Even the major program house renovations of the summer of 2008 were largely aesthetic and didnít address the significant internal problems. A comprehensive renovation of every single house is simply not in the budget ó and yet that is exactly what Wooster needs.
So here is my solution: I propose that a group of industrious first-years and sophomores step up to the plate.† Fill out an application with the WVN and start a house program. Only instead of volunteering at some charitable organization downtown, give your eight hours a month of service to the house itself.
With the help and supervision of a representative from the physical plant, at a dedicated time every week, members of the program could fix up the house they live in. They would be in a unique position to know exactly what needs to be done, and they would have the incentive to see it done right.
The students in the program would have a lot to gain, too. Fixing up your own home, and giving a gift to future students would be nothing if not a† rewarding experience. In the process, the students would learn a lot about home improvement repair. And, best of all, one by one, slowly but surely, the campusís program houses would get the chance to live up to their full potential.