In keeping with University policy of fostering class spirit, most freshmen will live in Harvard Yard, the oldest part of the University. The ivy-covered buildings, lush green lawn and shady elms make the Yard an attractive place to start a four-year stint. People lounge on the grass, frisbees fly and dogs run loose, painting an idyllic picture of college for the newcomers. Enjoy the elms now. Many are suffering with Dutch elm disease and may have to be cut down. And don't worry about stepping in dog shit. There's amazingly little considering the number of dogs.
As you mount the stairs to your room don't be surprised if some stranger says hello to you by name. He's probably your proctor or advisor who's memorized the names and faces of all his wards. He's also probably responsible for your living in that particular dorm with those particular roommates.
How did you wind up with them? The six senior advisors of the Yard spent July deciding where and with whom to put you. All rooming applications are spread on the floor of the freshman dean's office and the advisors proceed to pair compatible freshmen.
Most of the information used for doing this comes from the description you write about yourself and the type of roommate you say you want. Many don't seem too particular, others have some definite requirements. Usually there are a number of rather unusual requests, too. This year, some one specifically asked for a roommate not interested in biology. (Maybe out of fear that a pre-med in some tortured state might attack with a dissecting knife after finding out he failed the first Bio 1 hourly.)
Some carnivors ask not to room with vegetarians. Do they detest soy bean? Well, that's a pity because most of the hamburger you'll be eating at Harvard will contain a good deal of these "protenaceous meat substitutes". After a couple of weeks of the food here, it's not difficult to turn vegetarian involuntarily.
Religious preference seems to be low on the list of requirements for most people. Only about 1 per cent of the class is devoutly religious and most people, if they do mention religion at all, request not a demomination but a degree of religious intensity. A Jesus freak is usually not matched with an atheist.
Many people ask to live with others of their own economic status (an interesting subject for some soc rel senior thesis, no doubt). Maybe some Brooks Brothers type might find it difficult to live with someone who can't appreciate his cultivated accent.
Many people insisted on starting their description with "I am California." Do inhabitants of the West Coast regard themselves as a separate breed? Apparently many don't even want to contaminate the race with "those back-Easterners" and insist on rooming with other Californians.
For the most part, though, advisors try to give students a wide exposure to different backgrounds and complementary interests. My freshman quad had a woman from the heart of Phily, another from a private girls' school in a small New Jersey town, a third from a public school on suburban Long Island and a fourth parochial-schooled Southerner.
The Yard has a wide range of rooming situations, from singles to quints. The most popularly requested, most common arrangement and the most difficult to live with is the triple. One tip which might save arguments later--work out as soon as possible who will live in which room and for how long. Decide who gets the top bunk, who sleeps in the living room, who shares the double, who switches at midyear. This avoids conflicts come the new semester.
Musical talent abounds in the class of '78. Over half the class plays some instrument with the most popular form of expression (not surprisingly) being guitar, piano and of course, listening to stereo. Stereo fanatics run rampant here. Cambridge is an audiophile's paradise. About a dozen stores around the square deal stereo components. The Coop has one of the largest rock, jazz, folk and classical record stocks in Boston. If you're not tuned in before you get here, you probably will be in a short time.
Advisors have tried to match similar musical tastes when possible. This might sound like a trivial point now, but just wait til your roommate puts on her favorite Shirley Temple's Greatest Hits album. Uncoordinated tastes can be very trying.
Your class seems to have cleaner lungs than those of the past. Only 6 per cent of men, 15 per cent of women said they smoked. For still undetermined reasons, (higher neuroticism level perhaps) prep school females ranked highest on tabacco consumption. And the administration can't seem to figure out why so many freshmen answered "not cigarettes" to the question "do you smoke?"
Most people either had no preference or asked to live in a coed dorm. Some men, perhaps in an effort to materialize dreams of playing shiek to a surrounding harem, requested to live in all female entries. Tough luck, buddy.
So you won't be curious as to whom to expect on the way to the shower, here's a rundown of each dorm's sexual makeup:
Cannady-1 female, 4 male, 2 coed entries
Grays-3 coed entries
Hollis-1 male, 1 female entry
Mass -all male
Matthews-coed by floor
Mower-coed by floor
Stoughton-1 coed, 1 male entry
Thayer-1 male, 2 coed entries
Weld-coed by floor
Radcliffe Quad dorms are all coed and multi-class.
Incidentally, in case you're wondering about hours, visitors, etc., parietals went out with Lyndon Johnson. What ever goes on behind your doors is your business, (except maybe for some snooping neighbors.) No one supervises who goes in or out of your room.
Each dorm will develop its own personality and reputation. Dorm rivalries usually start with traditional cries of "Holworthy sucks" and end with a couple of water balloon fights, mob scenes and a moderate form of chaos on some warm October night when there's nothing better to do.
One word about the Union, the building where Yard freshmen will be eating most meals. The large resounding dining rooms with dark wood panelling, row upon row of long oak tables and antleer chandeliers, (yea, no joke, a Teddy Roosevelt '84, donation), will quickly become the social focal point of the class of '78. Friendships will be struck, romances started, food fights will erupt, political conspiracies argued, gossip will be gleaned and scholarly one-upmanship will be victorious over what must be the world's worst coffee. Dramatic social conflicts of whom to acknowledge, glance at, ignore completely or sit with occur every minute in the often zoo-like dining room.
Upstairs at the Union (sounds like name for a preppie bar) there's a room full of ping-pong tables, ppool tables and pinball machines ready to eat up quarters and time. Many otherwise rational and intelligent men and women of Harvard have succumbed to the addiction of the shiny steel balls--a manifestation of some repressed sexual desires?
About a quarter of the class will live at the Radcliffe Quad. Unlike the Yard, the Quad houses upperclassmen who tend to create a sedating effect. All the Quad dorms have double and single rooms leading onto long corridors. This makes Radcliffe one of the few places at Harvard you'll find "typical" dorm atmosphere in contrast to the apartment building type isolationism you get from suites in the Yard or upperclass River Houses.
The Quad is more politically active and socially conscious than the Yard. Feminism remains strong, speakers, discussion groups and meetings are held frequently. The Quad is the only place in the University where a 50-50 male-female ratio predominates. In an institution which has been a male bastion for centuries the preservation of such an arrangement serves as a reminder that women are not a minority.
The walk from the Quad to the Yard takes about 10 minutes which gives Quad residents a feeling of living slightly apart and being able to escape from the pervasive Crimson cover. One North house junior described the walk back "like coming home from school."
The going gets tough long about December. Both Quad and Yard residents will be dulled observing the transformation from luscious green to somber gray. It's about this time when many of you will start wondering, "Why didn't I go to Stanford?" But the joys of your first reading period alleviate any doubts in your mind: you should have gone to Stanford.