OP-EDS

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April 11, 2008

Bringing down the house

[img id="80465" align="alignleft"] May 1, also known as May Day, brings with it a set of familiar rituals: All across the world, people hold parades celebrating how fantastic socialism is (excepting, of course, every instance where it’s actually been implemented); Americans, having renamed the occasion Loyalty Day, embrace their love of Orwellian holiday names; and curious students finally get to judge for themselves whether that group of randomly arranged black metal chunks in front of Pick Hall casts the shadow of a hammer and sickle. (It doesn’t.)

And yet, for the U of C student, May Day’s significance extends beyond just interpreting esoteric eyesores. May 1 is also the deadline for working students—oppressed by over-enthusiastic R.A,s, unhygienic roommates, and the burdensome rules and regulations that forbid loudly informing everyone at 3 a.m. that you listen to really awesome music—to declare their independence. On May 1, undergraduates in the housing system must decide whether to sign their names to another year of incessant house meetings, fundraisers, and study breaks, or to seek the freedom and joy of living independently.

To be fair, undergraduate housing isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s kind of fun for a while. You probably made a few life-long friends (and nemeses) in your first-year dorm. In addition, the chances that you would ever be motivated enough to plan an apple-picking trip are slim to none, so house trips do offer experiences you wouldn’t otherwise have. Indeed, for some people, the housing system is perfect. We all know a person who is an exact fit for their house. They live there all four years, they’re friends with everyone, and they’re always having fun.

For the rest of us, known as “normal” people, undergraduate housing becomes fairly horrific fairly quickly. At a certain point in time (third week of fall quarter), it becomes exceedingly difficult to even pretend to tolerate your housemates, who feel it their duty to regale you with their latest insipid exploits while you’re trying to eat your $8 bowl of Bartlett cereal in the morning (“Wow, you’re right, it is fascinating that you went to a frat party last night and got drunk!”). The constant noise, the pathetic “parties” that the “cool” kids manage to throw in their Max Palevsky suites, the useless yet mandatory house meetings about respecting diversity that occur any time someone, somewhere in the housing system does something moronic—you come to a point when you realize that living in a dorm is more trouble than it’s worth. Then, of course, the need to move out becomes completely obvious when your roommate—who has gone two-thirds of the year without doing laundry—suddenly decides to make a trip to the laundry room week 10 of winter quarter and, without asking, stuffs your suitcase with his disgusting clothes because he doesn’t have a hamper, forcing you to discard said suitcase because of the lingering odor. OK, well maybe my experience in housing isn’t completely universal.

Roommate drama aside, it’s not surprising that many people end up with a negative opinion of their dorms. Undergraduate houses are artificial communities. There’s nothing distinctive about the group of students that ends up in Max East every year. For some, this is fine. Some people are able to create a house identity or end up liking the people they’ve been randomly grouped with. For others, it gets a bit tiring. You certainly wouldn’t have chosen to live with these people, many of whom you have little in common with, so why spend your time sitting with them at meals and house meetings?

Living in an apartment, on the other hand, makes college a whole lot better. In the dorm, you spend a sizeable chunk of time forcing conversation with people you have no interest in talking to—in an apartment, the only people you see at the breakfast table are your friends. There’s no pressure to uphold some stupid house “identity” and no pointless stories about frat parties.

And so, U of C undergraduates, you have a choice before you. If you enjoy interacting with people you despise on a daily basis (outside of Sosc, where it’s unfortunately unavoidable), if you think you need group meetings about the importance of respecting others, or if you just can’t live without an annual trip to pick apples, undergraduate housing is the place for you. For those of you seeking to overthrow the chains of forced community and gain freedom, choice, and the option to own a cat, go out and brave the world of apartment hunting. You’ll be a lot happier, you won’t miss Bartlett, and Hyde Park Produce sells really good apples, so you won’t really miss the field trips either.

Zack Hill, a member of the Maroon Editorial Board, is a fourth-year in the College majoring in NELC. His column appears every other Friday.