As Freshmen Move In, Transfers Crowded Out

Due to lack of space, intercollegiate transfers will not happen for two years

The College will not be accepting any applications for transfer admission for the next two academic years because its Undergraduate Houses cannot accommodate the extra students, the admissions office announced yesterday.

The news comes in the middle of the current transfer admission cycle; the deadline for transfer applications was February 15. Harvard has said that it will refund the $60 application fee, according to several transfer applicants.

Winthrop House Master Mandana Sassanfar said that the House masters had been discussing the space problem since early this fall.

“We all decided it was more important to have enough housing for our own students first,” Sassanfar said.

“There are many possibilities that have been on the table for reducing overcrowding—moving students from one House to another—[and] some of that’s being done,” said Pforzheimer House Master James J. McCarthy. “[We’re] trying to create some breathing space until we can begin the major renovations of the Houses.”

However, McCarthy said that he hadn’t heard of the news until yesterday, though he knew that the option was being discussed.

“It’s not a decision House Masters would make,” he said. “There was no vote.”

“The reality is that the last couple of freshmen classes have been big, and every House is above capacity,” said Cabot House Master Jay M. Harris. “There wasn’t an inch of space.”

The University has hired an architectural firm to look into the problem of Houses that cannot accommodate enough students, according to Interim Currier House Master Shahram Khoshbin.

“There are 13 Houses, 13 different architectural issues, 13 different types of problems,” Khoshbin said, apparently referring to DeWolfe overflow housing. “Whoever is doing it is probably taking a lot of headache medication everyday.”

The announcement—which cited the findings of the Space Assessment Committee, convened over a year ago to analyze College residential space—is the latest in a series of moves designed to alleviate overcrowding.

Dean of Admissions William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 said in an interview last month that the College would be accepting fewer students this year—and wait-listing more—in order to ensure that the Class of 2012 does not exceed the capacity of the freshman dorms.

In addition, while Dunster House recently announced that it would be offering more singles next year, Winthrop House announced Tuesday that seniors would no longer be guaranteed coveted “n+1” housing.

Neither Fitzsimmons nor Dean of the College David R. Pilbeam—whom the announcement said “concluded that the Harvard Houses cannot successfully accommodate any new transfer students”—could be reached for comment last night.

This past year, 40 transfer students were accepted from a pool of over 1,100 applicants—a significant decrease designed to counteract a growing freshman class.

Seth L. Hunerwadel, a transfer applicant from Georgetown University, received the announcement in an e-mail around 3 p.m. yesterday. He described himself as “in a state of shock.”

“This is very unfair. We put in tons of effort,” he said, adding that he had spent countless hours perfecting his application and had spent money preparing for and retaking the SATs.

Jessica A. Holler, a sophomore at the University of Michigan, said she applied to transfer to Harvard partly because the College’s new middle-class financial aid initiative was not in place when she applied to college as a high school senior.

“It’s heartbreaking to not even have a chance to be considered,” she said.

—Athena Y. Jiang, Clifford M. Marks and Nathan C. Strauss contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Lingbo Li can be reached at lingboli@fas.harvard.edu.