Quincy, The People's House

Sophie Gonick

It’s 6 p.m., you’re near the Yard, you’re hungry and you’re not a Yardling.

You’ve racked up an ABP bill to rival your Coop bill and you just can’t afford one more sandwich.

Annenberg is closed to you. Dunster and Mather are way the hell down by the River, and Currier, Pforzheimer and Cabot are conveniently located just Yardside of New Hampshire.

Thus begins the odyssey to find a dining hall that will feed you.

As you ogle the half-empty dining room in dark and stately Adams, the Checker—with help from a newly-deputized student helper—turns you away.

They need to preserve their House Spirit.

(Somehow, this imperiled House Spirit—apparently defined by exclusion—seems like the antithesis of a free-lovin’, naked-backstrokin’ Adams beloved by Communist revolutionary John S. Reed ’10 and poet extraordinaire e.e. cummings).

Next, all the way down Plympton Street, bustling Leverett, once an oaf among dining halls and now a prize, also turns you away.

Kirkland and Eliot, which instituted restrictions after athletes returning from Allston bombarded their dining rooms, would also turn you away—if you even got that far. So you trek back up Plympton Street.

But at the shiny ballroom that is Lowell, you also get turned down. They, at least, have a good excuse: Lowell is putting up Eugene Onegin, a Russian opera, in the dining hall and they’ve lost a lot of seating to the stage. (Besides, they never seem to have any food in Lowell anyway.)

Heading back across Plympton Street, you are resigned: Quincy it is, the house of last resort.

We admit it: Quincy House, with its summer camp-ambience and food quality, is not the Michelin Guides’ three-star restaurant of Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS).

Yes, the carrots in our salad bar tend to be covered in ice cubes, for some unknown, unappetizing reason.

Yes, when HUDS surveyed the student population on dining hall quality a couple of years ago, Quincy came up at the bottom.

Yes, we often run out of food before dinner technically closes.

And when you’re done with your meal, we have no Lowerator or tastefully-hidden conveyor belt to whisk your tray away into a doldrums washroom.

In Quincy, you throw out your own napkin and toss your own silverware into a bucket o’ water to soak.

Your tray goes, in your full view, into the kitchen, where employees listen to hip-hop and throw out your uneatens and sort your plates and cups and bowls.

There’s little frill—or hiding from reality—in Quincy.

But we, here in Quincy, welcome students from all over the college to join our food lines with a friendliness that you can’t get at a lot of other dining halls—if you can even get in to those other dining halls.

Like dining halls that have instituted interhouse restrictions, we have long lines, we have food shortages and our dining hall staff are ridiculously overworked.

It can be a challenge to find two seats together.

Student groups that include more than three members not from the same House overload Quincy, holding dinner meetings in the grill area (always hot, even at dinner time).

Meanwhile kids find themselves sharing tables with people they’ve never seen before.

But there’s a friendly, inclusive spirit to no-nonsense Quincy, which is hopping these days with people from all Houses, like an upperclass Annenberg.

There has been no controversy on Quincy-Open over our dining hall, no call for stricter interhouse rules or complaints about being confronted with a sea of unknown faces.

Indeed, much of Quincy has embraced its role as the catchall dining option for the hungry, the poor, the huddled masses of Harvard students.

With table space at a high premium, those dining in Quincy might find that they don’t have that comfortable two chair buffer between groups, but taken as a Berg-like opportunity to meet someone new, that little buffer is unnecessary.

Quite literally, Quincy House is where its at (and its where all those Quadlings you havent seen since you lived in the Yard are at, too).

In one of his rare moments praising Harvard, John Reed said “All sorts of strange characters of every race and mind; poets, philosophers, cranks of every twist. No matter what you were or what you did, at Harvard you could find your kind.” He would have loved Quincy.

Adams, Leverett, Lowell, Kirkland and Eliot—we can handle whatever (whoever) you send our way.

But HUDS, please send us more pasta and muffins—and ship some along to the other restriction-free house, Winthrop, too. And please, please, renovate us next.

In the meantime, see you all in Quincy House, where the food is mediocre, the lines are long and the spirit is above-average.

Stephanie E. Butler, a Crimson editor, is an English concentrator in Quincy House. Lauren R. Dorgan ’04, an executive editor of The Crimson, is a history concentrator in Quincy House.