Appliance Use High in Dorms, Houses

News Feature

One first-year rooming group in Canaday Hall decided over winter break that they would never call Pizza Ring again.

And since that time, aided by a host of electric appliances ranging from a bread maker to a salad shooter-to shred the cheese-they haven't.

"We don't order pizza any more...ever," one member says.

Despite a strongly-worded rule against dorm-room appliances in the Handbook for Students, undergraduates seem to be buying more and more specialized machines all the time.

"[T]he city of Cambridge's ordinances and regulations forbid cooking in any room or apartment not equipped with permanent cooking facilities," the handbook says. "Cooking equipment is prohibited in such places."

But the Canaday pizza parlor, for instance, holds a "pizza porto" to process the dough made by the bread maker, an "electric bread-slicing system," refrigerator, microwave, toaster over, blender, coffee maker, espresso machine, coffee grinder and an instant water boiler.

"It's more than a hot pot, it's a Hot Shot....We think it's powered by nuclear fusion," says one proud user.

This particular room may be more well-equipped than most, as a result of a competition between dorm rooms.

"This is the dorm of extremity," residents say.

It all started after another room had a microwave and popcorn poper along with its Laser Disc player and TV/VCR, they say.

But despite the plethora of electronic plunder, few in the dorm have seen any reprisals.

In fact, the pizza makers say their proctor was pleased when they got a set of shelves to house their equipment.

"She was very happy when we got this hutch to put it all in, "they say, "She was also resistant to our opening up a bar and grill."

Rules? What Rules?

Dunster House superintendent Joseph O'Connor says the rule "basically limits [students] to a refrigerator."

Too many appliances can be a fire hazard, he says.

"It's not all that funny," O'Connor says, "I'm sure a student wouldn't intentionally burn his room down....For the most part, students are organized, but sometimes they just don't think."

Cords running everywhere across rooms has been the largest problem, he said, and "hot plates should have been outlawed years ago."

Superintendents of the houses do a twice-yearly room inspections, during which they look for "illegal" appliances.

"If we find any electrical appliances, we very nicely tell the students that they're illegal," says Quincy House superintendent Ronnie W. Levesque.

But those inspections rarely yield a surprising or dangerous appliance, according to Levesque and O'Connor. Neither could remember the last time an appliance caused a safety problem.

Levesque, who sat on a safety committee to establish the rules in the Handbook for Students and the House handbooks for residents distributed each fall, says he hasn't noticed a recent increase in illegal appliances, despite the arrival of such conveniences as bread makers and the like.

"I think [there are] Jess, actually," he said.

But he also notes that the room checks are entirely visual, so students can easily hide their contraband kitchenware.

"Looking in closets or draws...we don't do that," he says.

But students certainly have these appliances around.

A senior in Cabot House who "couldn't live without" his electric sandwich maker, microwave, coffee maker, blender or toaster oven says only his roommate's "sixth sense" saved his appliances.

"They came during the day, through the fire door," he says. "We were all just sitting here in the living room."

Fortunately, he says, his prescient roommate had stowed their stuff just the day before.

Students who don't put away their sundry coffee makers and the like end up with a standard two-part form telling them what they need to remove. There is no defined disciplinary penalty for appliances, however.

The inspector returns in a week and "usually it's not there," Levesque says.

One Lowell room would have had two microwaves if the second hadn't been stolen from storage over the summer.

"We still have a rice-cooker, a toaster oven an espresso machine and a coffee maker, though," says a sophomore occupant.

The student says he uses the microwave to heat food his mother sends overnight from home and makes rice to go along with it.

Another Lowell student has a bread maker, another a hot pot, another a space heater.

The Source

The source for many of the forbidden appliances is close at hand-Harvard's own Cooperative Society.

"You can get almost all this stuff at the Coop," says one of the first-year pizza-makers.

Louise J. Petrozelli, merchandise manager of the Coop, says students are frequent appliance buyers, rules or no rules.

"Most of the students probably have a humidifier or a heater," she says, and "most will buy hot pots and toasters."

Petrozelli says that many of the cooking appliances are sold to "second year students...when they move out of the dorms."

But as College students seldom move off campus, most of those cooking appliances end up as illegal extras in rooms without kitchens.

"It really depends on the level of the student," Petrozelli says.

But, she says, undergraduates are not the Coop's primary market for the more powerful machines.

"We have no control over what they buy or what they use, but it's not really the students who are buying the high-voltage electrical appliances," she says