After beating Simpson in Mock Rock but falling short of ending its 7-year homecoming reign, off-campus house residents continue to “make spaces into places,” per their homecoming coalition motto.
The men of Bjornheim — juniors Dietrich Balsbaugh and Joshua Pautz, and sophomores Marcus Lotti and Dominic Bulger — began planning their homecoming group over the summer, speaking with each other weekly about plans for the banner and video. Over 13 houses joined for the Off-Campus Coalition’s first meeting, including The Halfway House, Bjornheim, The Jungle, Brooklyn, The Igloo, The Womb, and The Love Shack. Though homecoming is long gone, the OCC lives on through group study sessions, meals, and weekend gatherings.
Senior Sammy Roberts, who lives in Wessex, said that OCC’s impact has been greater after homecoming than during.
“It’s not so much what we’ve done, but how much we’ve continued to develop friendships after homecoming week,” Roberts said. “It allows individual people to make friendships with others that they wouldn’t have known otherwise. It serves its purpose when it’s not an end in and of itself, but when it leads people to the proper end, which is the friendships.”
Balsbaugh, who coordinated the OCC’s efforts, said that the group quickly became a label — the opposite of its original purpose.
“I was caught completely off guard by how fast everybody attempted to institutionalize the OCC, but it is not an institution,” Balsbaugh said. “I got a lot of questions of how to join the OCC, and how to be on a team for homecoming, but the point of the week was to show that we are something as a community.”
Now, over a month after homecoming weekend, the Off-Campus Coalition continues to grow as a community. Berntson and Balsbaugh said they text daily about going to dinner and studying together, and the group remains close with a group chat, which now has almost 50 members.
“It ended up as an odd conglomeration of people, but at the same time, it’s awesome,” Balsbaugh said.
The OCC highlighted the off-campus community that has been around for a long time, according to Balsbaugh.
“One of the cool things about the homecoming video is that a lot of alumni loved it,” Balsbaugh said. “They remembered their houses, and we wanted to show campus that it’s been around for a long long time.”
Senior Nick DeCleene said he had experienced a greater connection with other students who live off campus than ever before after joining the OCC.
“The OCC gave us a more intentional way to reach out to other people off campus,” DeCleene said. “It’s what I thought off-campus would be, but it hasn’t been until this year. It has been a really fulfilling community.”
DeCleene expressed the difficulty of moving off campus — specifically, the lack of fellowship that Hillsdale’s dorm culture provides. But he said that changed when he joined the OCC.
“It is really hard living off campus sometimes, but we are a community and that’s something worth cherishing,” DeCleene said. “You know all these people, you smile and say hello. The OCC brought a bunch of different people from cool and unique backgrounds together.”
The OCC’s post-homecoming gatherings have included parties at Boondocks and Graceland before walking together to Garden Party, brunches, and Poetry Saturday at The Halfway House, as well as more random get-togethers, dinners, and study breaks. Recently, Senior Emilia Heider went to Bjornheim to make bread for a housewarming party.
“It’s all about hospitality, and it’s a little easier to have people over because we have shared a bond,” she said.
Balsbaugh emphasized that the OCC is not an institution or a club, and that all are welcome participate in their community.
“The biggest thing post homecoming that I want people to know is that our doors are open,” Balsbaugh said, “not just our houses but all of off campus, and I want people to know that they can visit.”