The Red House Behind RAJ: What We Do and Why Midd Neds Us

Michelle Personick

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Recently, there has been a vast amount of discussion on campus about social houses, drinking and drugs, and their effects on social life at Midd. So what about the group that deals with both categories? That’s where Xenia comes in.

Xenia is the “sub-free social house.” However, that doesn’t mean that none of our members drink. While there are some members who don’t drink at all, a large portion of the membership and people who hang out at the house drink socially and go to parties where alcohol is served. A member once described Xenia as being a place for people who enjoy alcohol, but don’t want it to be a part of their living arrangements on campus, for themselves or the people they live with. The goal of Xenia is to make the sub-free lifestyle a visible and viable option by bringing together sub-free people across campus. Commons sub-free housing is mostly scattered, with single halls or even half halls of sub-free students. For this reason, one of the best features of Xenia is the way in which it creates strong friendships between people who span the entire range of class years and commons affiliations.

One of the most difficult things about being sub-free at Midd is that people don’t realize exactly how many people are sub-free. There is an array of definitions of “sub-free,” ranging from people who don’t drink at all to people who simply choose not to make alcohol the focus of their social lives. A result of the hidden nature of the sub-free social life is that sometimes people who consider themselves to be entirely or mostly sub-free feel like there is nothing going on around campus other than parties with alcohol. What they don’t see is that on any given night there are people all over campus who are hanging out and doing something that doesn’t involve alcohol. At Xenia we try to provide that option.

The questions that are often posed are “How does being sub-free affect your social life?” and “Do sub-free people have any fun?” As the president of the sub-free social house, I would say my life isn’t really that different. I spend weekends hanging out with my friends, having parties, watching sports games in a huge crowd of people, or playing video games.

Xenia comes from a Greek word meaning “hospitality.” Anyone who comes to Xenia is welcomed as a guest, but no one remains a stranger for very long. The members and friends of the house become a family. They hang out together both inside and outside of the house and house events, look out for each other, and even cook home-style meals together once a week.

Making the sub-free lifestyle visible is vital to its survival. It is necessary for people who chose to be sub-free to realize that they are not alone and most likely not even a small minority. If there is no central acknowledgment of sub-free living, it will become more and more hidden until sub-free people become so isolated that being sub-free will become an almost untenable option. Xenia provides an example of a viable form of sub-free living.

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