Dear First-Year Women*,
January at Davidson is dominated by self-selection and rush season. For first-year women, questions about eating houses abound. How will I rank the houses? Who will I cluster with? What will I feel on self-selection day?
When I was a first-year, conversations about eating houses felt inescapable and alienating. I chose not to join an eating house, but even for those of you planning to join an eating house, this can be a stressful time. From waking up to screams echoing through the hall, to showering in a bathroom scent- ed with a potent mixture of mustard, paint, and chocolate sauce, it is impossible to put self-selection out of mind. While the Davidson community talks a lot about what it is like to be in an Eating House during self-selection season, I think we often overlook the conversation about how women make the decision to join. As a first-year I was often asked about my decision not to join a
house. While usually this question came from a place of curiosity, it sometimes felt accusatory, even if that was not the questioner’s intent. Joining an eating house was not the right decision for me, and not all other independents feel the same level of comfort in eating house settings as I do for a variety of reasons. Many of the reasons people choose not to join are deeply personal and asking for a reason, especially from someone you do not know very well, can feel like an invasion of privacy.
There are many reasons that people who identify as women choose not to join eating houses: She can’t afford to pay first semester eating house social fees while she is required to be on a full meal plan. Eating houses feel exclusive and unwelcoming to her. She’d rather only join an NPHC organization. Gendered spaces make her feel unsafe and uncomfortable. Her eating disorder makes joining an “eating” house triggering. She doesn’t want to be part of an organization where she must pay a fine if she misses a meeting. She has dietary restrictions and wants to have more food options. She just doesn’t want to join.
All these reasons and more are valid.
For many women, eating houses are a great source of community. I am a frequent eating house lunch guest, and I am thankful for the safety I feel at eating house events. I hope your interactions with eating houses and their members are as positive as mine have been, and I hope that if you decide to join that you find the communities that I know exist. Here is some self-selection day advice, both from myself, and the many members of the Davidson community I have reached out to for help with this piece: To first year women who are on the fence: It is okay to join an eating house, it is okay not to join. It is okay to go to every single self-selection event but not join. It is okay to want to join an eat- ing house and be worried about self-selection day. It is okay to participate in self-selection and then drop before the deadline. It is okay to drop your membership, or join an eating house at any time while you are at Davidson. The decision should be based on what is right for you, not fear of missing out. To first year women who decide to be Independents: Be kind to yourself on self-selection day. Do something that makes you happy. You do not owe any- one your explanation for your decision not to join. If you are able to leave cam- pus for the weekend, do it. Spring semester can be a lonely time as your friends go through self-selection, big-little week, and their first house formal, but the friends worth having will still make time for you. Community can, and does, exist at Davidson beyond the bounds of eating houses. Davidson Outdoors, the BSC, and faith-based groups are just a few examples. To first-year women who decide to join: Self-selection can be overwhelm- ing and chaotic. It is okay to take sometime away to catch your breath. Remember to be kind to people who decide not to join, especially during self-selection and big-little week. You are the next generation of eating house leadership. As you go through this process, think about what could be done to make it less stressful for future first-years, whether or not they decide to join. Include your independent friends in that conversation. Make sure to continue fostering your friendships with women outside of your eating house. Invite an independent to formal, we make great dates.
P.S. I promise this is not as big of a decision as it feels like right now.
*I will use the word women for clarity in this article because, although several houses allow all who identify as women to be members, the current PCC system exists based on a gendered dichotomy.
Kenzie Bell ’20 is an undeclared student from Asheville, North Carolina. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org