East Quad is home to the Residential College, commonly known as “The RC.” If you aren’t familiar, the Residential College is “one of the longest running undergraduate living-learning communities in the United States,” according to its website. It is certainly an interesting community with perhaps overly-strong liberal arts academics — only in the RC can a student enroll in courses that teach Afro-Cuban drumming, Javanese dance or Slavic cinema.

Denizens of East Quad are known as “RCers.” They sport multi-colored hair in a variety of styles and are vintage stores in human form. You may even spot one resident in a sombrero, known by his alter-ego appellation “Pancho Villa.” Famed for once housing the Unibomber on the third floor, the building features live music in the basement and free art exhibits, plays and yoga classes. It’s a place where you can’t throw a rock without hitting a girl, and where straight boys are a hot commodity. East Quad, the best location on campus. East Quad, where every kind of person is welcome.

Well, not every kind.

In the program, it is mandated that a student lives in East Quad for two years. This is impractical for many people due to financial or health-related reasons, so a student may be forced to beg to live elsewhere for their second year. If one can provide sufficient proof of such a reason, then the office will issue a waiver, though they are notoriously hard to receive. Last year a cynical RC peer told me that if I didn’t live out of state, I was screwed. Discouraged by this information and unorganized as usual, I never got around to obtaining “proof” for my reasons.

At the end of my freshman year, however, a friend told me a secret: You can move out while remaining in the program if you just “go talk to them.” I decided to try it. In the RC office I was prompted to explain why I wanted to live elsewhere. To my surprise, I was rewarded with a smile and a computer override. In mere minutes I had accomplished what was supposedly impossible — apparently the need for cheaper housing was a good enough reason.

At the outset of the fall semester, I learned that for most of my sorority friends, the impossible had remained as such. In order to stay in the RC and also complete the required year in the sorority house, several had submitted waiver forms. Others had even employed the additional method of simply talking to the gatekeeper in the RC office. In both cases, the girls were denied. Apparently, living the Greek life was not only considered a banal excuse, it was also sufficient grounds to dismiss them from the program if they didn’t fulfill the two-year requirement.

To be quite honest, I don’t really care about this small disparity. It’s more of a snub than a real hindrance, considering most classes in East Quad are pretty accessible. What’s more, those in Greek life have their own social club to belong to and be welcomed by. If that’s your cup of tea, go ahead and drink it. I find it interesting that sombrero-wearing muchachos are encouraged and those of Omega Toga Whatevers are objects of disapproval. I even had a professor that often condemned those who were members of sororities and fraternities for not possessing enough individuality.

In a place where differences are encouraged, it’s interesting that it’s possible to not be “different” enough. However, despite the “Revenge of the Nerds” style poetic justice, I do think that if the aim is to create a place that is welcoming to all, then the place should welcome everyone, without exception. Despite their slightly embarrassing choices in rain boots or game-day activities, frat boys and sorority girls are probably real people with souls and everything. Think of the good we could accomplish through assimilation! We could familiarize them with Value World, teach them apathy regarding the direction of the “masses”, nourish them properly with seitan and soybeans, and finally, convert them to the religion of Pitchfork and NPR.

In all seriousness, the RC prides itself on being a haven for the diversity of its members: deviants, artists, language geeks, the occasional physicist, social and political thinkers, world travelers, writers, crazies like my dear Pancho and, of course, me. If your flavor of nuts includes neatly labeling yourself with a lettered t-shirt, you shouldn’t be excluded.

Vanessa can be reached at vanrych@umich.edu.

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