Student groups fill Lawn rooms

Recent changes to the now complete Lawn room selection process have meant that organizations with administrative agreements for Lawn rooms had to jump through additional hoops these past few months to ensure a member of those organizations would reside next year in their traditional Lawn room.

Patricia Lampkin, vice president for student affairs, said the changes restore the original spirit of the agreements that are in place.

"We're trying to both weigh the history of it and honor its original intent," Lampkin said.

Next year's residents of the Lawn rooms traditionally awarded to members of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, Trigon Engineering Society, Kappa Sigma fraternity and Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity applied through the regular Lawn application process as a result of the changes.

Of the eight rooms claimed by organizations through special agreements, four -- the Honor Committee room, the Crispell room, the Residence Life room and the Gus Blagden "Good Guy" room -- have contracts with the Board of Visitors, Lampkin said. The four rooms affected by the policy change, however, did not have such contracts. Rather, the organizations whose members typically reside in these non-endowed rooms had more informal "administrative agreements." These administrative agreements, Lampkin said, ensure a particular room to a member of that organization who has successfully made it through the Lawn selection process.

Of the four organizations affected by the change, however, two did not have any members who were selected to live on the Lawn through the regular selection process, Lampkin said. As a result, these groups were then asked to suggest members to the Dean of Students. Lampkin added that while both suggestions were accepted this year, the Dean of Students is not obligated to accept these suggestions.

The decision to alter the selection process for rooms with administrative agreements was met with mixed approval by current Lawn residents.

"I think that the change is a good one because it gives more residents the opportunity to live on the Lawn based on selection by their peers," Senior Resident Melissa Jenkins said.

Alexander Clark, the current occupant of the Jefferson Society room, was less enthusiastic about the changes.

"We would have like to have maintained the measure of control we had over the selection process," Clark said.

He said the Jefferson Society had full control over choosing their room's resident before 2003. In 2003, a new policy was implemented that required the society select its resident from the group of students who applied in the regular Lawn application process, he said. As of this year, the society was obligated to choose its resident from among the members who had already been chosen for the Lawn, Clark said, noting that more than one member of the Jefferson Society was accepted by the Lawn Selection Committee.

"The administration made a decision, and we are abiding by that decision," Clark said.

Current Trigon room resident Vanessa Trahan said the administrative review did not do much to alter the process already in place within her organization.

"We've been doing a similar process for a while now; all of our candidates go and talk to administrators anyway," Trahan said.

Trahan said she recognizes both the claim that Trigon has on the room, though it is not an endowed room, as well as the obligation to the community that Lawn residence entails.

"I don't think that endowed rooms take away from the integrity of the Lawn and I don't think that a review process takes away from the integrity of the endowed rooms," Trahan said.

Lampkin noted the changes in the selection process did not affect the selection of the three endowed rooms.

The Honor Committee room, which is endowed, was automatically given to next year's Honor Chair, who has yet to be selected, current Honor room resident Ben Cooper said.

Cooper defended the endowed room system, citing the traditional importance of the rooms.

"It's easy for us to criticize, but there's something to be said for the historical significance of these rooms and the deep ties to alumni that they have," Cooper said.

Cooper added that it is beneficial to the student body to have a representative of the Honor Committee on the Lawn so the chair is available to students with honor-related questions.

Of the other endowed rooms, the Crispell Room is chosen from the original Lawn applicants, with the additional criterion that the student plan to apply to medical school, Lampkin said, and another endowed room is set aside for the head resident of the Lawn.

The selection of the final endowed Lawn room, the Gus Blagden "Good Guy" room, markedly differs from the others. Rather than applying for the honor of living in the room, students are considered for occupancy based on the nominations of their fellow students, Interim Dean of Students Allen Groves said.

The "Good Guy" room occupant is chosen by a selection committee comprised of the Dean of Students, a representative from the Housing Department, the two co-chairs of Resident Staff and representatives of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the Inter-Sorority Council, the Inter-Fraternity Council, the Multicultural Greek Council, the Z Society and the IMP Society. The committee is chaired by the current Blagden room resident.

This year, the number of nominations for the "Good Guy" Room surpassed 100, current "Good Guy" room resident Kitt Healy said.

Next year's "Good Guy" room occupant will be Chad O'Hara, a Spanish and history major, Healy said.

"Chad emerged as the person who the committee felt best exemplified the criteria," Groves explained.

Third-year College student Jennani Durai, who nominated O'Hara for the room and is O'Hara's girlfriend, agreed.

"Chad is definitely the best person I've ever met," Durai said.

Healy noted that she was particularly impressed that so many people thought to nominate O'Hara even though he is currently studying abroad in Spain.

"I think the fact that he was in Spain and was not even involved in their day-to-day lives was another indicator of how great he is," Healy said.

O'Hara said his selection was completely unexpected.

"I was not involved in the process at all," O'Hara stated in an e-mail. "I didn't talk to anyone on the selection committee until the day they told me that I'd been given the room."

Of the other endowed or administratively agreed-upon Lawn rooms, the Senior Resident room will be occupied by Christian West, the Kappa Sigma room by Davis Martin Zaunbrecher, the Crispell Room by Derrick Thiel, the Jefferson Society room by Natalya Vaynblat, the Trigon room by Hillary Anne Chandler and the Pi Kappa Alpha West Range room by Justin Paul Lux. The resident of the Honor room will be the Honor Committee chair.

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