Hurlbut First-years Fill Their Nights with Games of Halo and Beirut

First-years enjoy post-midnight revelry more than anyone else. Released from the 8 a.m. wakeup time of their high school years, the typical first-year is like a kid in a candy store. He or she has no curfew, dozens of new best friends, and of course, there’s no teacher calling attendance in the morning. To capture the freshness and vigor of this short-lived epoch in a Harvard life, FM visited with a typical entryway that, according to residents, never sleeps.

Our chosen entryway was Hurlbut 3/4, and endless late-night antics have earned its residents some perks. For one thing, Howard Dean has personally endorsed their Beirut table.

The table itself, in Hurlbut 301, is actually a five- by three-foot plastic “Howard Dean” sign (in a patriotic red, white and blue no less), propped up by two standard-issue Harvard chairs.

One night, a visiting friend from another college—with political connections unbeknownst to the boys—played a game or two of beer pong on their table. She went home and dashed off an e-mail to Dean, who she thought might be amused. According to one of the Hurlbut boys, Paul Hamm ’07, Dean wrote her back, commending the boys’ taste in interior decoration and reminiscing about his own college days. Hamm jokes that their Beirut table is “the first thing on [Howard Dean’s] mind as he’s losing his campaign.”

Aside from the much vaunted Beirut table, the boys’ common room appears sparse and nondescript—but a closer look reveals that it’s an insomniac’s paradise. Every single aspect of the room caters to an absent late-night crowd, which typically begins trickling into the room long after most frosh have put down their Moral Reasoning coursepacks and called it a night. Although they seem lonely now, the slouchy couch and extra chairs are waiting for their regular occupants to start a long, hard, night of chillin’. The room’s sole wall-hanging: a “Teamwork” poster showing a college student, upside down, in the middle of a keg stand, his friends holding up his legs. In this battle-scarred room, life has clearly imitated art.

The maze of tangled video controllers on the floor complete the decor. “The videogames set the stage,” explains Joe A. Dottino ’07. “We’re a big Halo room,” the boys collectively concede. On a typical night, they say, after an hour or so of studying, one roommate will decide to take a Halo break. But the boys explain that fifteen minutes actually means an hour, “and since no one can end on a losing streak, you keep playing until your luck improves. By then, of course, you’re winning, so you can’t quit now…” And the justifications continue.

When video games begin to lose allure, the boys of Hurlbut 301 do what any conscientious, sophisticated Harvard men would do—bother the girls downstairs. Stephanie L. Sawlit ’07 recalls crawling into bed late one night, partied out and longing for rest, only to collapse on her bare mattress; all of her sheets had suspiciously disappeared.

The next morning, she marched upstairs to reclaim her sheets by any means necessary, including emotional subterfuge. She pretended to cry until the guilty party, Connor C. Wilson ’07, felt so bad that he fessed up and returned the kidnapped sheets.

Sheet-stealing is just one of many sophmoric shenanigans. Porn appears “randomly” on computer backgrounds, toothbrushes “mysteriously” disappear—even from the proctor’s bathroom.

But the third and fourth floor inhabitants do not spend every night wreaking havoc on Hurlbut. Occasionally, they are known to indulge in more artistic pursuits, especially when they are, as Hamm delicately puts it, “hammered on a school night.” The boys often lapse into jam sessions, always including Hamm on harmonica and Brendan D. B. Hodge ’07 on guitar. But one night, when all rooms were occupied, the boys faced a choice: jam in the bathroom, or try their hand at street performing.

Outside, the boys regaled a quickly swelling crowd with their rendition of “Wonderwall” until one of the “Pod People”—for the uninitiated, a person living in a single—screamed at them for interrupting her studying. The entire entryway may have been awake, but not everyone was amused.

The girls of Hurlbut stay up all night too—but with less lighthearted intent.

In hopes of applying to the VES film studies program, Olivia S. Shabb ’07 of Hurlbut 401 does not even leave the Carpenter Center until 3 or 4 a.m. on a typical evening. Her late hours are not just due to studio work–she's also hooked on AOL Instant Messenger. While she is busy at the computer, Olivia’s roommates can be found watching any of the five seasons of “Sex in the City” on DVD, studying, or, of course, partying.

But if Hurlbut ignores the clock on weeknights, how do they celebrate the weekend?

The answer: they party even harder. The kids can thank Hurlbut’s unique architecture for their partying advantage. A four-story back-staircase connects all of the suites, facilitating multi-floor parties and beer funneling. It ends in a side door leading from the basement to the street, ensuring that even the most inebriated freshman can safely stumble back from a beer run to Louie’s without fear. Even so, the parties have been busted often—and memorably. Sawlit recalls the time when a proctor came knocking in the midst of a particularly raucous party. With the infinite wisdom of a freshman, she concluded that the best course of action would be to dive under the bed. She explains, “Someone said, ‘Hide the alcohol,’ but I just heard, ‘hide.’” Naturally, the proctor was a bit curious about the girl plainly visible underneath the futon, and asked that she come back out. Fortunately for Hurlbut 3/4, this incident has hardly dissuaded the majority of students from partying with them, even if it means getting an early start, at say, 5 a.m. after an especially punishing chemistry problem set. Stephanie insists that this is by far the earliest she has ever started partying. By 5 or 6 a.m., the kids of Hurlbut 3/4 have almost all settled down for the night…er…day. Their schedule may not be for everyone, but it takes a bold entryway to pre-game breakfast.