"There are a lot of different people who do their own thing," says Peter S. Hahn '94, house committee co-chair. "There are no constraints to be a certain way."
Still, others admit that Dunster does have a distinct character.
"It's a little bit granola, artsy, funky, very musical and theatrical," says Senior Tutor Henriette Lazaridis Power. "We have very few varsity athletes...there are more with randomization, but you can count them on two hands."
Most agree that almost all Dansterites have enthusiasm for their own activities.
"We're known to be an exuberant group of people with a lot of creativity," says Karel F. Liem, the much-loved house master. "[The students] really like to get new programs going that are based on student initiative and student participation."
Despite this enthusiasm for individual projects, residents say the house spirit is, on the whole, "very tame."
"People like Dunster House, but it's not overly rah-rah," Power says. "It's sort of self-conscious house spirit."
But there are some house-wide activities that do inspire residents. By far the most popular, many say, is the Goat Roast that consumes many residents late in the spring.
"We get two goats that have been bled and degutted and we skin them ourselves with rock tools," DeMay says. "It's very natural. It's great."
Demay says the traditional Roast also includes live music, a limbo contest and many a mug of Dunster Brau--the students' homemade beer.
And when the goats aren't roasting, residents relax with each other at the monthly Happy Hours, weekly Coffeehouses, or on a daily basis at the House grill.
"It's not an organized social [life]. It's people spending a lot of time in the dining hall and in the common area," says Elizabeth A. Cotter '94, house committee co-chair.
As the second smallest house with about 360 residents, Dunster life is relatively intimate.
"You get to know a lot more people than in other houses," Hahn says.
But Cotter says the house is "not cliquish at all."
"It's a warm and nurturing environment," she says. "It's a comfortable place."
Some say Dunsterites must pay a price for the small size of the house. The limited common space makes it difficult to put or drama performances, hold seminars and provide general meeting places for students, Liem says.
"I think the lack of adequate common space is certainly evident at Dunster," he says. "We have just one relatively small [Junior Common Room], which is always crowded every night."
The rooms also tend to be small, but other things make up for it, residents say.
"Typically rooms are small and walk-through, but in exchange, you usually get your own room and a view of the river," DeMay says.
Residents also praise the house's exterior architecture. Liem calls it "the flagship of Harvard on the banks of the river," while Cotter says residents pride in their courtyard that overlooks the Charles and their crimson tower--which is often photographed for postcards and campus publications.
The dining hall meets unanimous approval from the residents, Power says. "Everyone in Dunster House loves our dining hall staff...it's a really nice place to eat and the food is great."
Dunster's facilities include seven squash courts, a basketball court, a weight room, a pottery studio, a wood-working shop and practice rooms for the house's several rock bands and for "normal classical music people," says DeMay, who plays in the band "Fat Day."
Dunster also boasts a powerful work-station of Hewlett Packard computers, recently donated by house alum Walter B. Hewlett '66.
The house library is the site for weekly concerts organized by resident tutor Owen C. Young, a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Dunster's own Composer-in Residence and resident tutor Charles F. Kletzsch, a Dunsterite for over 30 years.
"Students get a sense of history by talking to him and a picture of what Dunster used to be like," Liem says.
First-years balking at Dunster's relatively distant location can rest assured--somewhat. A shuttle stops at Dunster regularly and, Cotter says, "it seems much farther when you live in the Yard than once you get here."
Many residents do have one sore point with the house frequent fire alarms.
"They're always going off once a week at four in the morning." DeMay says. "Either people are messing around with them or there's something wrong with the fire alarm system."First-Year Preferences The chart denotes the percentage of 384 first-year students who said they will select each of the following houses in the lottery next week.