This summer, the Office of Residential Life walled off the basements in Farm and Jewett Houses.
In a statement, the Office of Residential Life claimed that “a few of the houses had basement areas accessible that were not intended for student use. With some other facilities projects, we were able to address this issue by closing some of the areas off, including some maintenance and ITS equipment spaces. All houses still have laundry and storage areas available to students.”
Students have mostly been confused as to the motives behind the walling off.
“They told me they wanted to keep the basement cleaner,” said student and Farm House manager James Harren ’19. “Farm [House] has so many things that have accumulated from over the years and we haven’t always taken care of the space,” he said. “I understand that and agree that at times the house has not taken care of the basement in the same ways we have not taken care of the house.”
Harren claimed that nobody in Farm House actually made the mess that the Office of Residential life claimed they did. He also stated that the walling off was also intended to prevent large social gatherings in the building’s basement.
“They built walls that basically blocked off the entire basement except a storage room, laundry area and our beloved library,” he said.
Harren also said that while Farm House did not consent to the walling off, the building is technically a dorm, so the Office of Residential Life did not need their consent to do so. He said that he wished Farm House could have been warned ahead of time about the process.
Jack Johnson, a sophomore living in Chaney House, claimed that the residents of Farm and Jewett Houses have a more difficult time than other houses due to the walling off. He claimed that one of the main reasons for the act was to “reduce the size of parties.”
Senior and Jewett House resident Eva Druskin concurred with the Office of Residential Life’s plans to prevent parties in the buildings—and that the Office gave little advance warning of the changes.
“They didn’t tell us they were going to be walled off until we got to school,” she said. “There were all these signs up that said ‘walled off for storage.’ I get it if they don’t want people to have parties, but the power went out and people came over to open up the generators and they left the doors unlocked, and there [was] nothing stored in there. It was empty.
“It was kind of weird [that] they didn’t tell us beforehand,” she said.
Druskin also said that, since students can still access the storage space, the house’s tornado shelter is still accessible.
To Harren, many Farm House residents have formed a sentimental connection to the building, and the basement is very special to them.
“The whole house is really important to people who live in Farm [House],” he said. “[It] feels like home to me and many others who live in the house… We feel some ownership of the physical house because we feel like it is our home… The basement was used for many community building [events].”
Harren elaborated on various events that were often held in the basement of Farm House, including student band shows, art showcases and shared Thanksgiving meals.
In terms of difficulties in the short term, Harren voiced difficulties with outlets and tornado sheltering.
“One of the outlets in the kitchen short circuited a couple of weeks ago and we couldn’t get to the fuse box because it was in the enclosed area,” he said. “It ended up being fine; we called security and they let us in to fix it, but I thought that it was silly.
“Also, when there was the tornado, the only place that people could go was where there were windows.”
In the long term, Harren said that Farm House will not be able to carry out their rituals the same way.
“Farm [House] has a lot of traditions and we’ve worked hard to [create a] community in the house, and maybe these sorts of things will dwindle because we’ve lost a space that we’ve used,” he said. “Maybe nothing will change. It was jarring, though, to have the basement no longer be a part of our house.”
Druskin said that a more effective way to reduce parties in the buildings would be to send an email out to students explaining their intentions to protect students, rather than closing the spaces off without warning.
She also said that closing off the basements will “push a lot of parties off campus, which… they might want to do because they’re not liable. Then you’re dealing with police, not security.”