Applicants to Quincy: Enthusiasts, Jokers
Quincy in December is still little more than a seven story cement and steel shell with elevator shafts. Few people can imagine its completion by September. Only two resident tutors and a handful of associates have thus far been named. Yet 260 students, almost twice the anticipated number, have filed applications for residence in the new House in the fall.
From this number Professor John M. Bullitt, Quincy's Housemaster, will pick eighty, roughly eleven from each of the other Houses; and these will form the junior-senior segment of next year's Quincy population. "The applications are spread rather evenly over the Houses, and the lowest total is well over twenty; so I have lots of room to maneuver," Bullitt remarks.
And maneuver he must; with Professor David Riesman, one of the Quincy associates, he is well into a ten day interview session hopefully pointing to final decisions and notifications before exam period. "I won't accept any more than eightly, and I'll have to demand some sort of commitment once a student had accepted my acceptance. If any drop out for good I can always fill in with more sophomores. Whatever happens we'll have 230 residents in the fall."
But what about these students--the eighth of the junior and sophomore classes applying to the new House? What are their reasons, and how do these reasons relate to Quincy as a new House and Quincy as a different, a unique House?
It seems logical that any new living space opened up would attract students who wish to room with new friends outside their present House. Normally, inter-House shifting is taboo, and Wigg and Claverly offer but a minimum of relief (and Wigg will be all-freshman next year anyway). Moving to any new House also offers a tactful excuse for leaving present roommates and escaping tensions. "There's always a push and a pull in these moves," Riesman hays, "and the roommate situation may well be either."
Riesman also notes the advantage of the private study-bedroom on roommate relationships. The Quincy suite offers both "unity and solidarity." The modern student may be more sensitive to his roommate's feelings, less inclined to insist on an end to the rock 'n' roll session of the hi-fi; he may think Chem 20 less important than friendship. The new House saves him the burden of choosing between them.
And there is silence. "It's just too hard to study where I am. It's not so much the roommates as the paper-thin walls and guys singing in the corridors. I want to write a thesis next year, and here it would be impossible," one junior affirmed.
There are the malcontents, who would flock tc anything new; some are malcontents for the "right reasons," others are upset over the wrong things. "We try to keep away from this latter group completely," Bullitt says. "Most of all we want active students who want something from the House and who are willing to put a lot in in return.
"And, of course, it's just these active students who will take the trouble to apply in the first place," Riesman points out.
This seems to be the case. A great many applicants seem most intrigued at the potential the House offers. "I like the idea of being there first, setting the tradition." "I want to leave something of myself behind, I want to make an impact on the system." "It's a challenge." "I want to do something that will last." "I liked my House, but you had to fit into the pattern. Everything was too organized. I like the notion of making a pattern of your own."
Among the enthusiasts are heard voices of denial. "I'm settled where I am, and the thought of a new start is only vaguely persuasive. The activities may never get started till I'm a five year alumnus." "Really, activities don't mean a thing, it was the icebox that convinced me and the elevator; this kind of thing you can't pass up." (Strangely enough, the "ice-box set" seems rather small, though active.)
But there are serious questions behind this drive to create. "All this 'let's do something new' jazz is fine in its place; but if there's something you don't like in your House then change it--bring the House up to par. This is even harder than plowing 'virgin fields'. I got into this deal because of my roommates. I care more about who I room with than where I live. But I can't take much more of this crusader spirit. Personally it seems like a lot of wishful thinking," one applicant states.
Most of the above talk would apply to any new House--and Quincy is more than any new House. It's unique; it's a "modern" House. And the "modern" look has made no little splash with the applicants. "I want to live in the 20th century, not in some stuffy ivy-covered copy of Mount Vernon." "What's so great with the entry system, anyway? Personally I don't like stairs." "It's the modern look that hit me; the duplex rooms are 'glamor plus'--real appealing."
And so it goes: glamor, elevators, refrigerators, silence--anything you name is somebody's reason for going, somebody's reason for not going. "I really don't care what they do, it was just a joke to apply anyway."
Joke or not, Bullitt seems to be enjoying it. And come January the rat-race will end, amid the cheers and the groans. Meanwhile on our way to classes we can pause for a moment by the workmen's fire and watch the building battle with the elements. It's a good way to warm up.