One unique aspect of residential life at Haverford is the existence of community houses. This fall, the community welcomed a new one to campus. The house, called Existence as Resistance, is an intentional community focusing on intersectionality and social justice. The aim of its inhabitants is to have a holistic approach to healing, issues of identity, and activism.
Students looking to forge connections based on shared interests may propose a community house to the Residential Life Committee by sending in an application describing their mission, how they hope to contribute to the Haverford community, and the students that will be living in the house. This year, Existence as Resistance joins other community houses Quaker House, Nerd House, Music & Arts House, and Ehaus.
“Their mission is to create a community where students of different identities can come together and create a space where these identities are not seen through a single lens, but instead through a multidimensional perspective,” said Nate Diehl, assistant dean of the College & director of residential life, who sits on the student-led committee that approves community housing applications. “It’s such a new and fresh perspective on community housing. I’m excited to see what they do in the first year of existence.”
Leslie Luqueno ‘20 and Rosa Urquiza ‘20 organized this new community house in part as a response to the current political climate around immigration and race relations in America.
“We came up with the idea when we were both at an Alliance for Latin American Students (ALAS) meeting,” said Luqueno, who, along with Urquiza, now also leads that student group. “We were talking about feeling powerless while we were studying serious social issues. For me, I was studying migration and then the travel ban was enacted, and I felt like I couldn’t do anything, which was frustrating because I was learning so much about this issue through my academics.”
“There were all these attacks on communities that we are a part of—marginalized communities, communities of color—and we were so far from home that I felt like learning and getting a college education wasn’t an immediate action,” said Urquiza. “It wasn’t going to help my family or my community. I felt so frustrated.”
But when an upperclass student at the ALAS meeting suggested that by being at Haverford as Latinas, representing people from marginalized communities, was, in and of itself a political action, the women were galvanized.
“Our existence was a resistance,” said Luqueno. “That really stuck with us, we even got stickers with the phrase on it. And [at the same time], we were figuring out housing, and then we thought about the option of doing a community house. We had noticed other special-interest and community housing options didn’t specifically observe the intersectionality that we needed. Other student houses are focused on one identity, and I didn’t want to choose my Latinx identity over my first-gen identity.”
Many people living in the house are also “first-gen,” or the first in their family to attend college. “Their presence at this school as students is not only for them, it’s for their families, it for their communities back home,” said Luqueno.
“We want to show that there is no right form of activism, that all forms are important,” said Urquiza. “Especially because some forms of activism are not accessible to everyone.”
Existence as Resistance has several upcoming events planned including phone banks for calling representatives, self-care workshops, and community dinners. These events are open to the entire community. Urquiza is most looking forward to the dinners.
“Through food you carry a lot of history and you can learn from that history,” she said. “History is embodied through intergenerational bonds, recipes you cooked with your mom or other family members. There’s also personal attachment to the food and being able to share that with people is something very special.”
Excitement about this new house has travelled all the way across the Atlantic to Belgium, where an interested student—and future resident—is now studying abroad.
“I am studying abroad this semester, but I am really happy to be a part of the new community house, Existence as Resistance,” said Alejandro Wences ‘19. “I was at Haverford for the first few weeks [of the semester] so was able to help with a lot of work in the beginning—with the budgeting process, with the social media account, and the movie committee! … Things are happening with this house and I hope to continue to be a part of it in some way, even as I am in Europe right now. Coming this spring, though, I hope to be even more involved than I am now.”
Photo by Alexandra Iglesia ’21.