Princeton Language Housing Initiative hopes to create language-based housing options
The new Princeton Language Housing Initiative strives to create exclusively polyglot affinity housing on campus as soon as the next academic year. Led by Jacob Hamel '18, the Language Housing Initiative hopes to house 15 to 20 people with proficiency in two or more languages within a sponsoring residential college.
Hamel noted that 15 members are currently working towards this goal.
He noted that, thanks to the discussions started last year about affinity spaces and the University's new campus plan,he believes this is the perfect time for his initiative to expand and flourish.
“In my sophomore year, with the [Black Justice League] calling for Black-only housing, I believed that the University was willing to take affinity housing more seriously," Hamel said. "Also, considering that the University has released its 30-year plan of expansion, my sense is that there is a lot of opportunity about what to do with that space, and the possibility for language dorms to expand into that space."
Hamel said that precedents forged by other colleges act as inspiration for his housing initiative.
“When I was applying to schools – I was looking at Brown, Middlebury as well – those schools have programs like this [Language Housing Initiative]." he said.
Hamel explained that Brown has one or two Spanish housing locations, where everyone has signed an agreement to speak Spanish when living in the dorm.
“That’s something that really appeals to me as someone who is really interested in languages but doesn’t have the time to take three language classes per semester," Hamel added. "I figured that if Brown and Middlebury can, Princeton can as well."
Jianing Zhao '20 also noted the lack of foreign language friendly housing on campus.
“I came in very surprised to find that there are no language houses at Princeton, having previously attended summer programs at other universities with prestigious language departments, such as Middlebury," Zhao said. "This is not to compare Princeton with other institutions, but with what it ought to be. Language housing is essential to foster a community of language lovers on campus, not in an ‘affiliation’ manner with any particular language, but to build an inclusive environment for polyglots to learn, to bond, and to grow."
Hamel said he hopes that once the University gives him permission, he will be able to create language dorms modeled off the Pink House and the Edwards Artists Collective, existing living and learning communities on campus.
“Those are the two models Princeton has so far, and the Language Housing Initiative is looking at both of those models for our own potential living-learning community," Hamel said. “[The Language Housing dorms] would probably be small, one or two stories, in a residential college, with 10 to 15 polyglots practicing with each other."
The goal, Hamel added, is to expand to where there can be “individual dorms for different languages, ranging from Korean and Chinese dorms to Arabic, French, and German ones."
He noted that the initiative currently is working “to receive recognition from the University to begin negotiations with residential colleges to move the initiative forward."
Hamel said that support from the East Asian Studies Department, specifically from his former Japanese professors, has been a great impetus for him.
Japanese Language Program director Shinji Sato did not respond to requests for comment.
A proposal has yet to be submitted to the University for review.
In the wake of protests from the BJL last year, the University set up a task force to investigate the possibility of affinity housing like that of Hamel’s vision on campus. Currently, no policy exists for the creation of affinity housing.