Russian House Constitution
I • | THE STATUS AND PURPOSE OF THE HOUSE
A. Status. The Amherst College Russian Culture Theme House, or Russian House, is an academic theme house, established and governed by the faculty of the Department of Russian, chartered by the College Council as part of the College’s system of social and residential life, and administered by the Dean of Students through the Office of Residential Life.
B. Purpose. The primary purpose of the House is to provide its residents with an environment that encourages and facilitates the speaking of the Russian language and the active exploration of Russian culture. The House also seeks to enrich the life of the campus by serving as a forum in which all speakers of Russian at Amherst can engage in activities that are conducted in Russian and are related to Russian language and culture; and by providing opportunities for interested members of the College community to learn more about various aspects of Russian language and culture.
II • | THE GOVERNANCE OF THE HOUSE
A. Department of Russian. As an academic theme house, the Russian House is governed by the faculty members of the Department of Russian. The faculty of the Department may at any time alter any provisions of the House Constitution, and must formally approve any changes to the Constitution proposed by the residents of the House.
B. The Faculty Advisor. The faculty of the Department shall appoint from among its members a Faculty Advisor to the Russian House. When no one member of the Department is able to serve the entire year, separate Faculty Advisors will be appointed for each academic term. From time to time the Department may also find it necessary to appoint an Interim or Associate Faculty Advisor. The Faculty Advisor to the Russian House shall:
a. serve as the primary liaison between the Department of Russian and the Russian House and represent the faculty of the Department in all matters concerning the governance of the House, including changes to the House Constitution;
b. coordinate the application process for the House and select all House residents;
c. convene, and preside over, the annual Transition Meeting in the spring and any subsequent House meetings during which matters of House governance (such as election of officers) are under discussion
d. ascertain, and take appropriate measures to ensure, that House residents and officers are complying with the responsibilities specified in the House Constitution;
e. make recommendations to the Office of Residential Life concerning the status of residents who fail to comply with the regulations of the House Constitution;
f. make recommendations to the House residents, the Department of Russian, and the Office of Residential Life concerning the status of House officers who fail to fulfill the duties specified in the Constitution;
g. advise House residents and officers on matters of house programming.
C. The Russian Language Assistant. During the years when the Department of Russian employs a Language Assistant, the Assistant resides in the Russian House. The Language Assistant shall:
a. work with the Faculty Advisor and the officers of the House to propose and develop House events and activities, serving as the primary organizer for some of these events;
b. hold regular study sessions on linguistic and cultural topics for House residents and other students of Russian on campus and encourage active use of the Russian language in all everyday interaction among House residents;
c. report to the faculty of the Department of Russian, via the Faculty Advisor, on the House residents’ progress in mastering Russian and their efforts to practice Russian, as well as their participation in House events.
D. The Resident Counselor. The Resident Counselor (RC) of the dormitory to which Russian House has been assigned by the College Council is an employee of Amherst College, appointed by, and reporting to, the Office of Residential Life. Pursuant to arrangements negotiated by the faculty advisors of Russian House and any other theme house with which Russian House happens to be sharing a dormitory, the dorm RC in any given year may or may not be a student of Russian language and culture who would have otherwise qualified for admission to the House. When the RC is a student or fluent speaker of Russian, the House welcomes the RC’s participation in Russian-language events. Even in those circumstances, the RC is not subject to the requirements of a regular house resident. The events proposed or led by the RC are undertaken as part of the duties assigned by the College, and the RC’s budget is separate from the House budget; events using that budget cannot be intended for residents of the Russian House alone. The RC is responsible for authorizing the use of the physical space occupied by the House; all residents of the House and the Language Assistant must discuss and clear any programming arrangements involving the use of the House’s space with the RC.
E. The Officers of the House. At the annual Transition Meeting in the spring, convened and chaired by the Faculty Advisor, the residents of the House admitted (or re-admitted) for the coming academic year shall elect officers of the House for that year. Any subsequent meetings to discuss the officers’ performance or alter the composition of the officer cohort shall be convened and chaired by the Faculty Advisor, whether or not the initiative for such a meeting comes from the residents of the House.
1. Number and Titles of Officers, Their Election and Dismissal. The House shall have no less than two and no more than three officers, depending on the number of residents. If the number of residents, excluding the Language Assistant and the Resident Counselor, is six students or fewer, the House shall have two officers, one of whom shall be President and the other Treasurer. If the number of residents, excluding the Language Assistant and the Resident Counselor, exceeds six, the House can have as many as three officers, including two Co-Presidents and a Treasurer, or a different configuration of officers discussed and approved by a two-thirds vote of the full house membership at the Transition Meeting. Officers shall be elected by a simple majority of house members. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote during the first round of voting, the two candidates who received the most votes shall compete in the second round. Officers can be dismissed by the full membership of the House (via a two-thirds vote, at a meeting specially called for the purpose of altering the composition of the officer cohort and chaired by the Faculty Advisor), the Faculty Advisor, or the Dean of Students (via the Office of Residential Life or directly). House residents who wish to call a meeting for the purposes of altering the composition of the officers must contact the Faculty Advisor who will decide whether such a meeting is warranted. In all but the most extraordinary cases, a House officer whose tenure is called into question for lack of diligence or promptness in fulfilling prescribed duties shall receive a warning from the Faculty Advisor and shall have a two-week probationary period to address and remedy issues brought up in the conversation with the Faculty Advisor. If an officer is dismissed or resigns, a replacement shall be elected at a House meeting chaired by the Faculty Advisor, to be held no later than two weeks from the day of the previous officer’s resignation or dismissal. If an officer is dismissed during a House meeting, elections of the replacement officer can take place during the same meeting.
2. The President or Co-Presidents of the House. The President or Co-Presidents of the House shall:
a. propose at least two major House events each semester (four a year), and take a leading role in organizing and publicizing them;
b. ensure that all events proposed and organized by members of the House in partial fulfillment of their House responsibilities and by the Language Assistant in partial fulfillment of that position’s responsibilities are supported and publicized;
c. work with the Resident Counselor to coordinate logistical support for all House events held on premises, especially the weekly Russian Tea (chai) meetings, which must be publicized widely to the Department and other students interested in Russian language/culture;
d. create and publicize set-up/clean-up schedules for all House events;
e. work with the Russian Language Assistant to encourage and ensure House residents’ regular and consistent attendance at all Russian House events and especially weekly Russian Table gatherings over lunch in Valentine Hall;
f. stay in regular touch with the Faculty Advisor by sharing schedules of planned events, to be posted on the House’s website, and regularly discuss plans for further events;
g. compile the annual report of House activities, to be submitted to the College Council; secure the approval of the report by the full membership of the House; provide copies of the report to the College Council, the Office of Residential Life, and the Faculty Advisor and ensure that the report reaches them in a timely manner;
h. serve on any College-wide committees or councils of theme house presidents convened by the Office of Residential Life, and attend meetings convened by the Office of Residential Life to discuss theme-house programming and logistics; when attending a particular meeting proves impossible, the President shall delegate a House officer to attend the meeting, so that no meeting convened by the Office of Residential Life goes unattended by a Russian House representative;
i. notify the Faculty Advisor, the Resident Counselor, and the Office of Residential Life if a House resident intends to move out of the House before the end of the year, or moves out of the House without additional warning;
j. collaborate actively with the officers of Russian Club by discussing plans for the year and coordinating programming for the benefit of all students interested in Russian culture;
k. undertake other projects as discussed and assigned by the House (by a two-thirds vote of full House membership) or the faculty of the Department of Russian (via the Faculty Advisor).
3. The Treasurer of the House. The Treasurer shall:
a. support the House President’s efforts to organize House events by helping produce a reliable and realistic budget for each event and regularly keeping the President informed about the budget balance;
b. work with the President(s) to ensure that tea and snacks are available at the weekly chai meetings, and that the budget allotted for that purpose is not exceeded, as well as helping the President set up the shopping schedule for House residents;
c. help the President identify supplemental funding sources for larger-scale House events from other College offices, prepare proposals for those events and attending carefully to the process of applying and receiving those funds;
d. work with the Resident Counselor to ensure that all questions regarding funding for particular events held in the dormitory occupied by the House are resolved clearly and amicably;
e. support the House President(s) in all efforts involving coordinating programming with the Russian Club, and work with the Russian Club treasurer as the need arises;
f. keeping minutes of all House business / planning meetings, and sharing those notes / minutes regularly via e-mail with House residents, the Resident Counselor, and the Faculty Advisor;
g. undertake other projects as delegated by the House President (or Co-Presidents), discussed and assigned by the House (by a two-thirds vote of full House membership) or the faculty of the Department of Russian (via the Faculty Advisor).
III • | THE RESIDENTS OF THE HOUSE
A. Eligibility. Residence in the House is open to full-time Amherst College students in their second, third and fourth year who are actively engaged in the study of the Russian language at Amherst College or speak the language fluently and wish to learn more about Russian culture through its language. As a rule, first-year students are ineligible for residence in the House; exceptions to this requirement may be made at the discretion of the Faculty Advisor and the Office of Residential Life only for students in their second semester of residence in Amherst (that is, never before the spring term of their first year). Because the primary aim of the House is to create more opportunities for its residents to practice Russian, and because residents need to be able to function at a certain level of competency in order to be able to carry on conversations with each other – competency roughly equal to two semesters, or at least 120 contact hours, of college-level Russian-language instruction – students who have not taken Russian at Amherst College and do not otherwise have native or near-native fluency in the language are as a rule ineligible for residence in the House. Students who wish, and promise, to begin their study of Russian during the first semester of residence in the House, will be considered for admission only in exceptional cases. Such students will need to pre-register for the first-semester Russian course in the spring of their admission to the House, and will be dismissed from the House if they have not done so by the end of pre-registration. Continued enrollment in Russian language courses at Amherst College is a key condition of residence for all students whose native or near-native fluency in the language has not been explicitly certified, and for whom this requirement has not been waived in writing, by the Faculty Advisor. Students who gain admission to the House by registering for a Russian course and subsequently withdraw from the course, for any reason, either in the first or the second term of residence in the house will be dismissed from the House. By the time of the spring Transition Meeting all residents admitted or re-admitted to the house for the following year must have pre-registered for at least one Russian-language course for the following semester. As a rule, residence in the house is limited to four semesters.
B. Admission. All prospective residents must submit an application for admission to the House. The application process is administered by the Office of Residential Life; copies of the application submitted online are shared with the Faculty Advisor and current officers of the House. Current residents must re-apply for admission each year. Priority in admission will be given to declared Russian majors who will be ranked by the year at the College. Students who gained preference in admission to the House by declaring a Russian major and subsequently drop the major will be dismissed from the House. All decisions regarding admission to the house are made at the sole discretion of the Faculty Advisor. Admission criteria can include, but are not limited to:
a. the applicant’s proficiency in Russian;
b. the number and level of courses taken in Russian;
c. the applicant’s willingness to speak Russian in the House and to participate fully in House activities. Students whose length of residence in the House will exceed four semesters may submit an application and will be considered for admission last. Students who have not taken any Russian language courses at Amherst College but claim to possess native or near-native fluency in Russian should be prepared to demonstrate such fluency in speaking, written expression, and comprehension (listening and reading) in an interview conducted by the Faculty Advisor. The Faculty Advisor may seek the advice of current House residents and officers on any application, and may choose to form a selection committee for the purposes of evaluating candidacies of applicants. Should such a committee be formed, it will function in a consultative capacity; no votes shall be taken by members of the committee. No current residents re-applying for the following year may serve on such a committee. The Faculty Advisor will notify the applicants of the outcome of their applications and will submit a list of accepted residents to the Office of Residential Life. The due date for the applications and for the submission of the House roster shall be determined by the Office of Residential Life.
C. Transition Meeting. Each spring, after the House roster has been determined and approved by the Faculty Advisor, the Advisor shall convene a meeting of all residents of the House for the following year. The agenda of this Transition Meeting, chaired by the Faculty Advisor, can include, but is not limited to, the following items:
a. discussion of the House Constitution, including the governance of the House and the responsibilities of the residents;
b. signing of the Constitution compliance clause by each resident of the house;
c. discussion of House projects proposed by the new residents of the House and drafting of a preliminary schedule of House activities for the first month of the new school year;
d. determination of the number and titles of House officers, given the number of House residents;
e. election of House officers;
f. assignment of rooms.
D. Room Assignment. The Resident Counselor of the dormitory in which Russian House has been placed by the College Council will pick one room in the dorm before any other room assignment is made. The Faculty Advisors of Russian House and any other House that may be housed in the same dorm will then agree on which blocks of rooms each House will occupy, in consultation with the Office of Residential Life. If a Russian Language Assistant is employed and in residence, the House Faculty Advisor will select the Language Assistant’s room. To determine the distribution of remaining rooms, the Faculty Advisor will rank all House residents, prior to the Transition Meeting, using the following considerations:
+2 points for each semester in residence at Amherst College;
+2 points for being a declared Russian major;
+1 point for each semester in residence in Russian House;
+1 point for each semester in which a resident took a Russian language class at the College;
+½ point for each term, including summer, spent studying Russian outside the College (in an intensive immersion program or abroad);
+½ point for each semester in which a resident took a Russian culture class (in translation) at the College; these points will accrue on top of language points (so if a student took a Russian language class and two other non-language Russian culture classes in a given semester, that resident’s score for the term will be 1½ points).
The Faculty Advisor will confirm the information that led to the calculation of this score with House residents, and can further verify the information about coursework and major declaration by consulting the Registrar’s Office; any misinformation supplied by House members in order to secure a higher priority on the room ranking list will move the resident in question to the bottom of the list and can lead to a dismissal from the house, at the Faculty Advisor’s discretion. Students who have lived in the House for four semesters will be placed at the bottom of the ranking list. If two or more residents have the same room-priority score, their priority will be determined by lottery conducted by the Faculty Advisor at the Transition Meeting. Once the residents have been ranked, they can pick rooms in order the ranking. The room assignment determined at the Transition Meeting may not be altered without an express written consent of the Faculty Advisor and the dorm’s Resident Counselor; if two residents wish to exchange rooms, they must secure the permission of the Resident Counselor and the Faculty Advisor before making such a request to the Office of Residential Life, which has the ultimate authority in these matters. If a room in the House becomes vacant during the year, the House President must communicate this fact to the Faculty Advisor, the Resident Counselor, and the Office of Residential Life immediately. If current House residents wish to move into the vacant room, they must petition the Faculty Advisor in writing. The Faculty Advisor will then rank them according to the point system described above, consult with the House President and Language Assistant and determine who should occupy the vacated room; there is no guarantee that the room will be made available for such transition. If rooms become vacant during the course of the year and there are other students who wish to join the house, they have to submit an online application and, upon their admission to the House, will be assigned a room by the Faculty Advisor using the point system described above. Circumstances and eventualities not addressed by the provisions of this section will be considered by the Faculty Advisor, who may seek the advice of the President of the House, the Resident Counselor, the Office of Residential Life and the faculty of the Department of Russian in reaching the final decision.
E. Responsibilities. The College Council has mandated that residents of theme houses adhere strictly to all responsibilities specified in the House Constitution. As the College Council stipulated, “the effectiveness of the House rests firmly on an accepted code of behavior in which cooperative living and consideration for others are the keynotes.” Residents of the House are responsible for “developing workable ways of alleviating individual differences and resolving conflicts so that the rights of each student and the rights of the community are protected.” In furtherance of these principles, and in accordance with the Russian House’s purpose as defined by this Constitution, residents of the Russian House, who are expected to abide by all regulations issued by the Dean of Students through the Office of Residential Life, shall, in addition:
a. speak Russian among themselves as much as possible according to their level of proficiency in the language, with learners taking advantage of the knowledge of the native and advanced speakers and the latter taking the initiative to start and foster conversations in Russian, particularly with residents more hesitant about their speaking skills, so that all conversations begin in Russian, even if later they have to switch to English;
b. propose and take a lead in organizing at least one House event per year if the number of residents exceeds six, and at least one event per semester if the number of residents is at six or below;
c. attend all House events, including weekly tea (chai), and all house business meetings called by the officers of the House for the purposes of planning House events;
d. play an active role in publicizing Russian House events to the campus community;
e. regularly attend the weekly lunchtime Russian Table meetings in Valentine Hall, take an active part in the conversations, and encourage other students to attend Russian Table;
f. participate in, and help set up before and clean up after, all cultural and social events held in the dormitory in which Russian House is in residence, including, but not limited to, weekly tea (chai), for which a shopping and set-up/clean-up schedule will be set up by the House President by the second week of classes in the fall semester (with each resident responsible for three to four chai meetings per semester), and the end-of-the-year Department of Russian party;
g. exercise special care in handling equipment and supplies available in the dormitory, including televisions, video discs and players; food left over from House events or chai (non-perishables purchased for chai and other events are not for personal use of the residents and will be kept by the officers of the House); and utensils available in the food-prep area in the common rooms.
F. Dismissal and Replacement. House residents who fail to fulfill their duties, as described above and as determined by the officers of the House, the Language Assistant, or the Resident Counselor, shall receive one formal written warning from the Faculty Advisor and be offered one probationary period of two weeks; if the problems identified when the warning is not issued are not resolved by the time the probationary period ends, the resident shall be dismissed from the House and will not be eligible to reapply to live in the House the following year. The room of the dismissed resident shall be considered vacant and shall be reassigned according to the procedures described above.
Revised February 2011