To Make a House a Home

Photo contributed by Fritz Scibbe

Photo contributed by Fritz Scibbe

I was first told about The King’s College nearly a decade ago. I was riding in the car with my brother—he mentioned that there was an interesting college in New York where people were studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. 

PP&E is only one of the two aspects that sets King’s apart from the majority of higher education institutions in the United States, and even the world. Yes, we are distinct in the classroom for reading great texts and asking big questions. We carry those conversations into life outside of the classroom in the form of the House System. But it's more than that.

As we are in the midst of House Executive Team elections, it seems right to reflect on the role of the Houses in our lives as Kingsians. The recent reflection on the size of the Houses during the Student Body President elections and the strain it has placed on student leaders is an incredibly important conversation we must have. We should, however, do this without losing sight of the many great things the House system has done.

As a married, older student I don’t live on campus, so I understand that my perspective on the House system might be different than that of an on-campus student. I also know that my involvement and subsequent flourishment at King’s is a direct result of the House of Ronald Reagan. If I am being totally honest, before I arrived at King’s, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be involved in my house, largely because of the polarizing effect of its namesake, Ronald Reagan. Lewis, Bonhoeffer, and Churchill all carry far less stigma in popular culture and are easier to digest for those who live outside of the world of conservative ideals.

Weeks before arriving on campus I was greeted with an email from most of the members of my executive team along with a link to the previous year’s House Futures video. In it, I heard about the intense bond of fraternity and honor that existed in my House. As a combat veteran, I was relieved to hear that I would find comradery and quality friendship at King’s similar to what I had in the units I had been with.

I saw the House of Ronald Reagan transform the freshmen and first-years from fresh-faced new students into men who cared deeply about the fraternal bond we now shared.

I found this brotherhood immediately upon arriving on campus when I was greeted by my Executive Team, Professor Brenberg, Eric Bennett, and many alumni during orientation. After winning The Great Race and the Drama Competition, I saw the House of Ronald Reagan transform the freshmen and first-years from fresh-faced new students into men who cared deeply about the fraternal bond we now shared.

At the Reagan Retreat, the freshmen were welcomed into a family that cared about the educational, spiritual, physical, and emotional flourishing of its members. I can say with certainty that, had I not been greeted by the men of Reagan, I would not exist in The King’s College apart from classes and the library. The sense of belonging I have found here only came about from the home I found in my House.

That being said, I understand that the House System has challenges to face. The school has changed significantly in the past few years: we are bigger and better than we have been in the past. Along with our growth comes the need for growth in the House System. I have noted two primary concerns regarding the House System:

  1. The Houses contain too many people, and thus students struggle to find home there.

  2. Because the Houses are so populated, the roles of House leadership are too difficult to manage for 20-year olds.

Both of these concerns are valid and need to be addressed by King’s leadership. I only attempt to offer my voice to support positive changes to our Houses. In order to deal with the rapid growth in the size of the Houses, it seems like it may soon become prudent to add new Houses. While this may seem an unpopular opinion, to split the Houses while students are in them,  this would be preferable to simply eliminating the Houses as the size becomes unmanageable for student leaders.

There are times when we must make difficult decisions to salvage the things we love. Furthermore, since King’s has been asking incoming freshmen for ideas for the addition of an eleventh House for years in the Presidential Scholarship competition, there should be no shortage of eligible namesakes for new houses.

If any member of the staff and faculty could empathize with the enormous burden placed on the student leadership of our school, it would be President Gibson. As a retired Air Force General, he has not only been a young adult in command of the lives of other service members, but also his experience at the Air Force Academy has prepared him to shape young leaders. Undoubtedly, General Gibson knew the extraordinary nature of King’s students when he accepted his position: King’s is a school full of brilliant young men and women seeking to better the world, and I fully trust General Gibson and his staff in their ability to prepare House leaders for their roles.

I love this school and have for a long time. I applied so early to King’s that Michael Martinez, as my student admissions counselor, thought I was coming the year prior to my arrival. What drew me to King’s was among the same things that drew almost everyone: the faculty, the academics, and the opportunities. But the House system is one thing that really sets King’s apart from the rest. While I might agree in many circumstances that "there are no sacred cows," if we abandon the things that make us unique, what do we have left?

The opinions reflected in this OpEd are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of staff, faculty and students of The King's College