Arrivederci to the Italian House? Not so fast.
Just three days before the deadline to apply for specialty housing, the Italian House was in danger of not receiving enough applicants to fill the house.
But in the end, a Facebook group and some luck helped rekindle enough interest in the house to save it from an uncertain fate.
On Jan. 27, Language House Coordinator Crystal Adams informed Italian House Tutor Novella Gremigni that if 20 applications were not received for the Italian House, it could be put on probation. If the house did not receive enough applications for two years in a row, it could be shut down.
That evening, Gremigni broke the news to Italian House resident Megan O’Connor ’09, who, motivated by her own positive experience in the Italian House, immediately started a Facebook group titled “Save the Italian House.”
“[At first, I thought] we should do a rally or make sandwich boards and run around, or distribute pasta to everyone on campus or something,” O’Connor said. “Then I just went in my room and just decided to make the Facebook group because that seemed like the quickest, easiest, most realistic way to get the word out there.”
Gremigni said that garnering interest is an annual problem for many language houses, which have to receive enough applications to fill 90 percent of the house, or risk going on probation.
“That’s why we are trying to let students understand that it’s good to finally have an Italian House to live in and we want to do better every year,” Gremigni said. “That’s also why Megan created the Facebook group — to let students know that the House is something that has to be protected. It’s something that we gained and we want it to stay open, especially because it’s the newest one.”
O’Connor initially invited 30 friends to the group. But within two days, the group had grown to over 90 members, including not only applicants to the house and members of the College community but also supporters from as far away as Italy.
According to Gremigni, the Italian House received 21 applications in total.
It’s unclear how many of the group’s members, had already planned to apply before the group was made. One group member Tim Page ’10, who had lived in the Italian House his sophomore year, was eager to return after having spent a year in the Units.
“The language houses are the only places on campus that have that kind of community feeling … like the same as Greek housing, but they’re not as crazy,” Page said.
“Or dirty,” Mike Vance ’10 added.
Vance, who has no experience with Italian language, applied to the Italian House partly because he wanted to live with Page, and partly because he saw it as the least competitive of all the language houses this year.
“I don’t know any [Italian],” Vance said. “Tim’s taught me a couple of words — like, you know, fettuccine alfredo, prego.”
According to Gremigni, about 13 of the 21 applicants to the Italian House had previous experience with Italian. Currently, about half of the Italian House’s residents either do not take Italian or have any previous experience in it. She attributes this to the small size of the Italian department and to the Italian House’s short history.
“It’s still kind of taking off, and hopefully, as more people become more interested in it, it’ll become more competitive,” O’Connor said.
Italian is currently not offered as a major at the College.
“This explains why we have to fight a little bit more to get people know what the House is doing and what it means living there,” Gremigni said.