It comes as a great surprise to the Colgate community that the French-Italian House will be closing after this semester. The gray house on the hill, which was founded as the French House 33 years ago, will become the new Center for Research, Learning and Teaching.
Over the years, the house has been an integral part of the Colgate experience for students and professors. Professors have used the house to hold class, dinners and other activities in a cozy atmosphere. Students have built relationships based on common interests, learned from one another and had a lot of fun.
“I think it’s very important to have this kind of house on campus,” senior house member Alix Quinn said, “as it lets students with an interest in the French and Italian languages and cultures to live together and plan activities in the house that other students on campus can participate in.”
The closing has come as a shock to house members and professors alike, many of whom have expressed sadness and frustration about the situation.
“What does Colgate’s constant song and dance about diversity really mean when it is taking away, rather than attempting to strengthen, one of the campus’s most wonderful environments for cultural learning?” senior house member Bridget Ryan said.
The administration decided to turn the house into the Center for Research, Learning and Teaching without conferring with students or professors.
“What is really a shame was the abrupt ultimatum we received about the closing of the house without any discussion or debate involved,” senior house member Annabel Truesdell said. “[The decision] was extremely quiet and not publicly known, so no one had much chance to express an opinion.”
Upon hearing the decision, students and professors were left confused, as the house has been so successful for so long. No one knew what was going into the space, why the change was taking place or who made the decision.
Dean of the College Adam Weinberg explained that student interest in the French-Italian house has decreased, especially over the past few years, so the administrative faculty decided to use the space in a way that would better serve the needs of the student body. Meanwhile, the administration plans to work with faculty members to sustain the cultural and international atmosphere that the French-Italian house has created on campus.
“A number of great ideas were raised from students and faculty,” Weinberg said. “We have been working with those students and faculty to develop new programs that should increase opportunities for students over the next few years.”
The Center for Learning, Teaching and Research will be a resource for students, faculty and the Hamilton community needing any sort of academic support. The Center will combine many of Colgate’s existing support programs such as tutoring, the Writing Center and the Science and Mathematics Initiative into a singular, user-friendly gathering place. Students can go the center and tell a staff member the type of help they are looking need, from which point the staff will direct students to the program that best fits their needs.
Centralizing the academic support programs will not only make getting appropriate guidance easier and more efficient, but it will also hopefully remove the stigma of going somewhere to get help.
“The Center will become a hub and resource for students and faculty as they seek to learn and to share knowledge more effectively,” Assistant Dean of the Faculty Jill Tiefenthaler said. “When students go to the Center, it does not necessarily mean they need help, it means they are taking control of their education and seeking opportunities to expand their knowledge and get the most out of their academic experience.”
The Center certainly will give students needed academic support and should be an exciting addition to the campus.
Members of the French-Italian house find it sad, however, that improved support for Colgate students comes at the cost of losing the beloved and long-lasting tradition of the French-Italian House.