Thought Project LLC adjusts to life in former Sig Ep house

by Hayden Welty | 9/27/19 2:05am

9-27-19-news-sigep-nainabhalla

The former house of Sig Ep fraternity will be occupied by residents of the Thought Project LLC this school year.

by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Staff

Unlike most residents in Dartmouth’s living learning communities, upperclassmen residents of the Thought Project Living Learning Community moved into a locale a little different from the McLaughlin cluster this fall: 11 Webster Avenue, the former house of Sigma Phi Epsilon, a fraternity de-recognized by the College in 2018.

Thought Project student coordinator Kos Twum ’21 said that the transition has been an unexpectedly large adjustment and brought mixed results so far. The Thought Project LLC has around 70 participants, some 40 of which belong to the Class of 2023.

“Last year, Thought Project was only a floor,” Twum said. “So going from a floor to a house plus a floor is a big adjustment, but it seems like it’s going to be good, though.”

Associate director of residential education, living learning communities and academic initiatives Abi France-Kelly said she believes the recently-renovated house has the potential to allow for great community building.

“They have a big common room, a private study room and some other opportunities to do more programming in there, and we thought that would be a great way they could use that space in a more intentional way than just having students in there who weren’t associated with an LLC,” she said.

According to various students living in the former Sig Ep house, the bedrooms all have full beds.

First-year residents of the LLC, however, still reside in the McLaughlin cluster, instead of at the former Sig Ep house, according to Twum. 

“It would be weird to have freshmen on Frat Row, especially with the [fraternity ban],” she said. “I think that’s just the better option for them.”

Amanda Sun ’23, a Thought Project resident living on the first floor of Rauner Hall, said that while she has enjoyed her experience at the LLC, she has struggled to meet older members of the Thought Project, stating that she would prefer that all of the LLC live in one dedicated area, even if that meant making the size of the Thought Project smaller.

Twum said that integrating the freshmen and upperclassmen –– despite the distance –– was an issue the leadership of the LLC has discussed and is working to address.

“It’s almost like they’re strangers coming into your floor,” she said, describing the potential interaction between upperclassmen and freshmen members of the LLC.

France-Kelly added that the College is providing resources to help facilitate the transition, such as an advisor who will be serving as a liaison between the first-year community living in McLaughlin and the residents living in the former Sig Ep house.  

To build community and bridge geographic distance in the LLC, the group hosted a brunch last Sunday at the former Sig Ep house. 

In terms of adjusting to life on Webster Avenue at the former Sig Ep house, Twum said the majority of residents find it funny and are treating the idea of an LLC on what is known as Frat Row with a sense of humor. 

“It’s an interesting feeling because it feels so out of place [compared] to the other houses around it, but they kind of like being in a house,” she said. “It’s kind of fun being on a house rather than on a floor.”

France-Kelly noted that the location of the former Sig Ep house allowed the Thought Project LLC to differentiate itself from the other LLCs located in McLaughlin.

“Where the house is located, it is near the president’s house; it is near the West House professor’s home,” she said. “It’s on the end of the street where there is a different vibe of the community. We hope that would help to make it feel [like] less of the experiences students kind of associate with Webster Avenue.”

An unexpected barrier, Twum said, arose in problems with card access to dorms, as residents of the Thought Project LLC living in the former Sig Ep house do not have card access to enter McLaughlin, which includes Occom Commons. She added that the restricted access to Occom, which serves as a centralized location for McLaughlin, necessitated the need to reach out to administrators in order to resolve the situation.

France-Kelly said that because the LLC is spread out between McLaughlin and the former Sig Ep house, they have an opportunity to exercise flexibility in choosing spaces that fit their programming.

“If they want to have a private program where they don’t necessarily have to do the room reservations they would have to do in Occom Commons, they can use the Thought Project house for that,” she said. “They would be able to come and go as they needed.”