Learning to Love the Quad

After spending one year as a resident of Kirkland House, Larissa M. Jennings '01 decided that it was time for a change.

So she transferred--to the Quad.

Across the Yard yesterday morning, many first-years sent to Cabot, Currier and Pforzheimer cried and shook their fists at the elusive housing gods.

But take heart, first-years: There is life in the Quad. Some people, like Jennings, even choose it.

Students at the River are quick to criticize Quad life as inconvenient and isolated. Yet residents defend their home. They tell first-years that it's not that far, that they won't lose touch with your friends, and that the Quad's atmosphere is hard to beat.

And a select number of students, like Jennings, even decide to leave their River Houses in order to relocate to the Quad.

"I really do love the Quad," says Jennings, who now lives in Cabot House. "I feel like I can say that truthfully because I did live on the River."

Former Lowell House resident Chris A. Amar '01, who now lives in Cabot House, agrees.

"I switched from the River to the Quad for two reasons: because people in the Quad seem to have more House spirit and because it is the perfect way to get some distance and perspective on your life," he writes in an e-mail message.

" I love the walk back, and the sense leaving my stress down by the River," he added.

It hasn't always been this way. Before randomization, a substantial number of students chose to live up Garden Street.

But in recent years, first-year despair over the prospect of Quad life has become an annual ritual.

Currier House Master William A. Graham Jr., a professor of religion and Islamic studies, says the dread associated with the Quad has intensified in the past five to eight years.

"A substantial portion come here with preconceived ideas," he says. "The Quad gets its share of people who don't want to be here because they think it's in Canada or something. But by December most have discovered its advantages."

Almost a year after she burst into tears over her housing assignment, Carrie L. Shuchart '02 reclines comfortably in her single room in Cabot House, extolling the virtues of her home.

"It's not necessarily better than any place else, but people make too big a deal out of it being a negative," she says. "I like this lifestyle."

Going the Distance

The Quad is far, but not as far as many River dwellers believe, according to Currier House resident Robert N. Lindsey '02.

"I don't think it's all that terribly isolated," he says.

Although many Quadlings say that their home is merely a 10-minute walk from Johnston Gate, they cite the shuttle service as an additional advantage.

"The shuttle is like door-to-door limo service," Pforzheimer resident Luke Y. Wang '00 says.

Graham admits that the distance is more of an inconvenience for athletes whose practice times force them to be across the River at hours when the shuttle does not run.

"After dark and before dark it's a long haul," he says.

But for science concentrators, Graham says the Quad's location might even be an advantage, considering that the shuttle stops directly outside the Science Center.

"For people in science, [the Quad] is closer door-to-door than Mather or Dunster," he says.

Jennings says that as a result of the shuttle, she does much less walking but yet is more mobile than when she lived by the River.

"I don't have to shiver as much in the winter," she says. "I feel like I get around more now because of the shuttle. I'm not forced to not go somewhere because I don't feel like walking."

Reach Out and Touch Someone

One of the most common fears students have about living in the Quad is that they will be disconnected from life and friends down at the River.

To some extent, this concern is valid, Wang says.

"I couldn't even remember where Lowell House was a couple weeks ago," he says.

And because those living down at the River think the Quad is so far away, they are hesitant to visit, says Tad A. Fallows '02, who will be transferring from Cabot House to Quincy House next year.

"[In the Quad], no one ever comes by your room," he says.

But Jennings disagrees.

"I find that I have more visitors here than I did when I lived in Kirkland," she says. "People like to get away."

Shuchart says that eating lunch with friends in their River Houses is a good way to keep in touch.

"Winthrop has become my adopted House during the day," she says.

Lindsey says that the burden is more on those living in the Quad to visit those down at the River, but says that new Quadlings won't necessarily lose touch with friends because of the distance.

"If someone is a close enough friend, you will see them," he says.

Quad Culture

Despite being removed from the epicenter of campus, residents maintain that the Quad has its own unique benefits--from late-night dining hall snacks to the Houses' close proximity to Porter Square to attractive House facilities.

"Harvard's older Houses are beautiful, but in my experience, their rooms and facilities can't compare to those in the Quad," Brendan D. Connell '02, who is transferring from Eliot to Pforzheimer, writes in an e-mail message.

The isolation can be a benefit as well, they say.

"It's like having your own smaller campus," says Kaitlyn M. Choi '02, who lives in Cabot House.

Last year, Choi lived in Wigglesworth Hall, alongside Mass. Ave. She remembers seeing fights and car crashes while hearing sirens in the background.

Now at Cabot, she is thankful for the peace and quiet.

"It's nice to see kids and residential neighborhoods," she says.

Shuchart says that the Quad also seems safer than the area down by the River.

While Harvard University Police Department spokesperson Peggy A. McNamara says she could not officially comment about the difference in crime rates, she admits it's certainly possible that the Quad is quieter.

"Based on the geography without actually doing a criminal analysis I would say that the number of [criminal] incidents is possibly less," she says.

Jennings says her transfer is proof that first-years shouldn't necessarily regret their Quad assignments.

"When people get the Quad, I'm like, 'Yay, you're so lucky!'" she says.

But Currier House resident Sunana Sohi '00 says that despite the area's merits, she doesn't expect the stigma to go away--it's a first-year ritual.

"Everyone who gets Quadded is upset at first," she says. "My roommate cried. But most people grow to love it."