Crowded Again

A HOUSE IS not just a house, it's a home. That's what the College tells students from the moment they arrive in the Yard to the day that they discover house life means no variable meal plan, no opportunity to live with friends you meet after your freshman year and living with house stereotypes that envelope you--like it or not.

There are advantages to being part of a house community, but they are advantages which you can enjoy only if you are living in the house. For 15 Eliot and Winthrop sophomores settling in for a second year in the Yard, the house system is a cruel farce. One Wigglesworth sophomore resident thought his room assignment was a joke, but there's nothing funny about the housing problems that plague the College.

The overcrowding extends beyond Wigglesworth J and K entries, where the exiled sophomores have been granted shelter. Several houses face crowded situations within the house as well. University officials point to an unusually low attrition rate, which means fewer students than usual are taking time off. We sympathize with the difficult task Harvard housing officials have of predicting the behavior of not-so-predictable undergraduates.

Changing attrition rates, however, disguise the central problem of undergraduate housing at Harvard: the University's attitude that crowding a houseful of sophomores and juniors is a price worth paying to ensure that there are never any empty rooms. Forcing a year or two of overcrowding onto a house or sending sophomores to Wigglesworth or Sumner Road--the likely destination of 10 upperclassmen--is not a reasonable resolution to the College's housing crisis.

These one and two year temporary reshufflings affect an enormous part of a students' three-year house life. It is rather difficult for students to benefit from their role in a house community when they have to walk 20 minutes just to get to their house dining hall. Always trying to maximize housing resources means often minimizing the quality of life of many students. If there were a bit fewer undergraduates at Harvard, there would be many fewer housing crises. Accepting just a few dozen less freshmen or transfer students would go a long way toward improving housing for students already here. The University seems to be more worried about empty common rooms than maintaining the integrity of the house system or the happiness of its students. That's no way to treat students paying $70,000 for an education.