By moving towards more randomization in its housing policy, Harvard College has embarked on a perilous and unfortunate course. While the ideals of increasing diversity and reducing stress should guide every decision made by University officials, the new policy, which eliminates student agency in the housing process, will increase anxiety and turn diversity into a numbers games, devoid of true interaction and communication.
The administration feels that its previous policy, which allowed firstyear students to pick four Houses in which to live, placed unnecessary stress on undergraduates. They believe that housing concerns distracted frosh from spending adequate time pondering their field of concentration. Most first-year students, however, start thinking about their concentrations during shopping period of the second semester. The two or three weeks that the majority of frosh spend choosing four houses hardly cause students to make rash decisions about their concentrations.
The new housing policy, however, will create unimaginable anxiety as students wait, pray and ultimately lament their sophomore residences. Sophomore residence is an accurate name for the housing assignments given out because many students, while they should be focusing on their sophomore tutorials and concentration requirements, will be paying more attention to deadlines for midyear transfers, end-of-the-year housing changes and off-campus apartments.
The cause of diversity also suffers under this new housing method. In an ideal world, all of Harvard's houses would resemble those in the Quad, where no racial or ethnic group vastly outnumbers the others. Under randomization, people will be thrown together haphazardly and many groups, namely Blacks, will see the voice they have gained in such houses as Pforzheimer, Cabot and Currier eliminated. Without the numbers, Blacks will have little to no say in deciding which types of programs and events a house will host. The natural consequences will be alienation and withdrawal from the house, both mentally and emotionally. Although the example used African-Americans, any number of groups could be substituted.
Recognizing that the new housing policy will lead to an increase in anxiety and decrease in sincere diversity, the administration should reconsider its housing policy and seek bolder, long-term solutions which do not unnecessarily complicate the lives of undergraduates but truly address the issues of diversity and stress at Harvard University. Joshua Bloodworth'97