[Letter to the editor] Theme Houses Deserve More Recognition

Ronan Coughlin '23

In response to the article published in the October 13 edition titled Theme houses: Union College’s best kept secret, I wanted to talk about the lack of opportunities and recognition that the theme houses get on campus. For starters, I have met many sophomores and juniors that know nothing about theme houses, let alone that they exist. The school does very little to advertise their existence. I’ve heard from multiple freshmen that the theme houses are not even mentioned on tour guides or open houses. The school instead pushes the idea of Minervas, spaces that aren’t specifically catered to individual interests or identities. Many theme houses, such as Iris, create spaces for marginalized groups that may not have many other safe or comfortable spaces on campus. One would think that these catered spaces would be incredibly beneficial for the school to acknowledge. 

Not only are the theme houses neglected by the majority of campus, but each house only receives a budget of $700 for the entire year to throw at least two events a term. This greatly limits the possibilities for theme houses to throw large events. They have to tightly manage their budgets so that they are able to actually get all of their programs in, or else they are put under review to see if they can even stay as a house. Theme houses can only spend their money directly on events; so, they can’t use their money to pay for supplies to keep the house clean or decorated. The theme houses don’t have cleaning staff to help maintain their spaces either, meaning the entirety of each theme house must be taken care of solely through the personal budgets of the students living there. This is typical for students living in Seward or off-campus housing, however, those students are not expected to run events and are not specially-advertised housing. Theme houses have to advertise their living spaces to potential new members, but are not given the means to make their spaces comfortable or unique. Theme houses shouldn’t have to struggle for recognition and funding, and should be rightfully respected as important spaces on campus for many students and communities.