College's Year of Review Sets Stage for Change
Debate Focuses on House Assignments, College Survey and Student Center
College officials spent much of the last year reviewing undergraduate life, and the decisions they make this spring will likely indicate how well reality matches their ideals.
Increasing student diversity in the residential houses, debating the conversion of Memorial Hall into a Freshman Union-type facility for students and responding to complaints about College advising head administrators' agendas. Also, concerns over security have been heightened since three sexually-related assaults occurred in Harvard buildings this fall.
In an attempt to better distribute student groups throughout the residential houses and to simplify the lottery system, Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 yesterday announced two alterations to the freshman lottery system.
Beginning this spring, a portion of the freshman class will be randomly assigned to eight undisclosed houses. Also, lottery numbers will be with-held from freshmen for the first time since 1985.
The changes come in the wake of house masters' complaints that the current system of voluntary assignment leads to house stereotypes and reduces student diversity. A controversy over the number of athletes in Kirkland House two years ago sparked the latest review.
Administrators say they hope that withholding lottery numbers will shorten the lottery process and encourage students to list their house choice according to true preference rather than according to the likelihood of availability.
But Undergraduate Council members condemned the plan when it was introduced last fall, stating that "an increase in randomness would only decrease satisfaction."
A University study of College life last year revealed that a majority of students say they are satisfied with their house, regardless of whether they chose it.
The same study found that students say knowing lottery numbers helped them select houses.
That survey, sent to all upperclassmen, represented administrators' broadest efforts to date to evaluate undergraduate life. Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III said last spring that results would help shape the College agenda for the next five years.
Initiated by President Bok, the 18-page questionnaire combined topics previously studied in separate surveys. More than 2000 upperclassmen responded to questions evaluating various aspects of student life including the house system, academics, race relations and dining hall and library usage.
Students overall ranked Harvard 2.3 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 indicating extreme satisfaction with Harvard life.
The College released the results in three stages--general, residential and academic concerns. Key findings included broad dissatisfaction with academic advising and indications that race relations have remained comparable with levels 10 years ago. A disturbing statistic showed that about half of undergraduate women had experienced unwanted sexual attention here.
Debate Over a Student Center
Administrators this spring will also determine the feasibility of moving the freshman dining area to Memorial Hall and creating other student facilities in the building. If the move is approved, it will likely be incorporated into plans to convert the Freshman Union and surrounding structures into faculty office space for humanities departments. Plans for both a "humanities center" and a "student center" will depend primarily upon financial resources, says Associate Dean of Physical Resources Phillip J. Parsons.
Although such amenities as conference rooms, student offices, eateries and even a post office might be incorporated into a Memorial Hall renovation, a final design will depend on funds and integration with the house system, according to officials.
Last spring, the University hired the Philadelphia-based architectural firm Venturi Rauch and Scott Brown to assess the feasibility of renovating Memorial Hall.
The firm, considered highly innovative, has executed multi-million dollar projects at Swarthmore College, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania. The study is "almost finished" and ready for administrative review, says the architect in charge of the project.
Security Concerns Heightened
Three reported instances of sexual assault on campus renewed concerns by students and administrators over security. After a Harvard employee was raped at the Science Center in December, officials tightened security at the building, which is open 24 hours a day. Epps has also called for an expansion of the one-car police escort service, though Harvard Police has said it lacks the funds to purchase another car.
Two reported assaults in freshman dormitories led College authorities to warn all students to be more cautious in allowing strangers to enter buildings and rooms.