An Eighth House
In the 20's and 30's when President Lowell's seven Houses by the Charles were still regarded as a Great Experiment, the University was already buying up neighboring plots of land. A day would come, the Administration though, when the growing College would out-strip the then-spacious Houses.
That day has come. The Houses are clearly overcrowded. Although every bit of existing space is used, some 150 students must be shunted off to Claverly. Whether you call Claverly a Hall or a House Annex, it still has a stigma for those who live there. An eighth House would eliminate the Claverly problem; it would also alleviate some of the worst cases of crowding in the other Houses. And by the time a new House would become a reality, the yearly admissions rise could fill the rest of it.
A new House becomes especially important in the light of today's close scrutiny into the philosophy of undergraduate education. For emphasis on formal, blue-book pedagogy, programs such as the Yale plan would substitute the informality of personal contact. Here in the College, an eighth House would make the present tutorial system more efficient. With additional space available, more non-resident tutors could be given offices in the Houses, making them readily accessible for the close tutor-student relationship that is the basis of the tutorial system. Also, more space would give tutors in fields other than the big five a chance to come to the Houses. Although new offices would take up paying space, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences should be able to absorb rent costs as part of its aid to the tutorial system.
A new House would be expensive. The University estimates five million dollars and states that unrestricted funds are currently tied up in more immediate projects. Construction costs have doubled since the existing seven Houses were built, and the administration draws a line at economy devices that would make a new House seem inferior in the eyes of the undergraduate. Obviously, it could not be so plush as, for example, Lowell, from its very conception designed as the keystone of the system. But there are ways in which significant savings could be made without any sacrifice of appearance or comfort. Cheaper, equally attractive materials could take the place of wood paneling in rooms, the dining hall, and the library.
A decision with as many far-reaching implications as the construction of a House cannot be made overnight. Much of the University's unrestricted funds are currently tied up in programs such as those designed to bolster the Education School and the Divinity School. But a new House is equally important.
Five million is a lot of money. But a House is the type of project that will surely draw enough alumni interest to warrant a fund-raising campaign, provided the University agrees to underwrite itself a considerable part of the costs.
Everyone agrees that although eighth House is a long way off, increased enrollments make it seem inevitable. The Administration should recognize that the need exists now, and that planning must begin.