The romance languages and literatures department and the Office of Residential Life have decided to end the Vouté Language Houses after this semester ends. Consisting of the Maison Française and the Casa Hispánica, the Language Houses are Living & Learning Communities that immersie students in French- and Spanish-speaking living environments.
In a letter to the residents of the Language Houses sent Friday, Franco Mormando, the chair of the romance languages and literatures department, outlined the concerns about the program that ultimately led to its discontinuation. Reasons include the limited number of students in the department that the program benefits—a lack of participation in Language House events, the belief that the resources put into the program could be better used in a way that benefits students, and that the two graduate students who serve as resident assistants would be better served professionally if they were Teaching Fellows in the classroom.
“I have had due discussion with my colleagues this past semester and it is my firm conviction that while deeply regrettable, the decision to close the houses was entirely reasonable and indeed inevitable, given the aforementioned enduring problematic issues that their continuance have long presented,” Mormando said in the letter.
Mormando went on to express his sorrow at the programs termination, and expressed the department’s commitment to find other means of advancing the studies of language students outside the classroom.
The residents of the Language Houses were told about the decision upon returning to campus this semester, and many have tried to prevent its ending. They have also expressed anger at not being consulted in the decision to end the community they live in and planned to live in in the future.
“What really bugs, not just me, but everyone in the program is that they didn’t ask us, they didn’t say like, ‘Hey we’re thinking about discontinuing, what are your thoughts about this?’” said Jonathan Afonso, a resident in the Casa Hispánica and MCAS ’19. “ … But they didn’t talk to us, they didn’t send out a thing.”
On Jan. 24, 14 students residing in the Language Houses sent a letter to administrators detailing why they believed the program should be saved. They argued that the program is unique to BC, with few universities in the Boston area having a similar program. They also said that interest and participation in events has surged in the past year, and that the termination of the program would constitute denying students “the opportunity to immerse themselves in a unique cultural experience.”
“This decision wrongly perpetuates a stereotype that BC is a monocultural institution, and denies students the choice of a close-knit community and support system not seen in ordinary dormitories,” the letter reads. “Students seeking to expand their cultural enrichment through the program will no longer have the opportunity to do so.”
The letter ended with personal statements from residents on how living in the Language Houses has enriched their time at BC. A follow-up letter was also sent on Jan. 29 after the students had not yet heard a reply, and contained the names of 31 students committed to applying for the Language Houses. As the room selection process is underway, the residents are seeking to reverse the decision in time for applications.
“I’m not sure, because I really found my place in this community, and I thought ‘Oh this is great, I found my place at BC’ and then it’s kind of, like, taken away,” Afonso said about his plans for next year.
Many of the residents are deeply saddened by the decision, and have reflected on what the Language Houses mean to them.
“They fostered a community, but also they’re a support system as well, for people who may not fit into the BC culture,” Afonso said. “So it’s really more than a community, it’s more of a family. It’s really good for people who don’t feel like they fit into the BC culture and it gives them an outlet and a place to feel welcome.”