Houses offer a safe space and a place to explore new perspectives
By Wed al-Nod and Becca Carcaterra
Contributing Writer and News Editor
St. Olaf students are often encouraged to engage meaningfully with their community. This year’s new honor houses provide several opportunities to do just that, introducing topics that challenge social stigmas and raise awareness about issues facing the student body.
As the LGBTQ community becomes increasingly prominent on campus, the OUThouse strives to provide a 24- hour safe space for LGBTQ students and their allies. The house has already hosted an ice cream social in collaboration with GLOW (Gay, Lesbian, or Whatever), inviting the whole St. Olaf community to get to know one another regardless of their sexuality and get involved with upcoming events that strive to further the rights of the LGBTQ community.
The One Degree house also strives to welcome students and foster candid discussion, but its focus is on the many students whose lives have been somehow stricken by cancer.
“We are called the One Degree house because we are all one degree away from cancer, meaning we all know someone who has been affected by cancer, physically or emotionally,” house president Mary DuRocher ’16 said.
The house has already hosted a bonfire and has more events in the works, such as a partnership with the charity Kyle’s Shooting Stars, which provides assistance to children facing life- threatening illnesses. It is also planning a Halloween 5K Monster Dash in October in an attempt to make the topic of cancer less taboo within our community.
“We will be having a safe place conversation and support group, informative events, preventative efforts, as well as large group social events just to get us thinking and comfortable with talking about cancer,” DuRocher said.
An additional group striving to break social stigmas is the Muslim House.
“Many people here in this community and its surroundings are not fully knowledgeable about what is Islam,” Essam Bubaker ’18 said. “As a house in this community, we want to build a better understanding, provide more sources and allow our activities to be integrated in the community, which grants a greater participation, thus al- lowing a better perception and acceptance of [Islam] on campus.”
The Muslim house is organizing events and intiatives such as the “Ask a Muslim Anything” radio show and a panel where students can ask questions about Islam anonymously. The house emphasizes that Islam, regardless of biased media and the narrowminded- ness of some people, is a peaceful re- ligion and is not responsible for many of the horrendous acts that have been committed in its name.
“I feel that I have this moral obligation to correct what has been perceived wrong and display Islam in the right way, which is through peace, humbleness and kind heartedness,” Bukater said.
Other new honor houses this year include the Thinking Globally Acting Locally house, which serves as a resource for students thinking about
or returning from study abroad programs. “We strive to connect with stu- dents who have studied abroad and desire continued discussion about their abroad experience,” Helen Kyle ’16 said. “In an increasingly global- ized world, some of the most valuable lessons to be learned are simply from people and places that are different than you.”
The Women Inspiring STEM House encourages women and girls to get in- volved in scientific and mathematical disciplines, in which they are tradi- tionally underrepresented. The members of the house are each studying a different STEM field, and they host a Saturday science club for young girls in Northfield. “We will be focusing on encouraging young girls to explore STEM subjects and develop the confidence necessary to pursue education in these areas later on in life,” Emma Schnuckle ’16 said. “We will use the community of STEM women at St. Olaf as role models to foster these ideas and counteract the stereotype that STEM is for boys.”
This year’s honor houses provide many opportunities for students to hear new perspectives that broaden their understanding of each other and the world. Whether through a focus on international experience, inclusive academics or the sensitive topics of re- ligion, health and sexual orientation, the new St. Olaf honor houses exemplify the St. Olaf spirit of service and community engagement.