About 30 students dine together around at a long wooden table every night at 6:30 p.m., helping themselves to communal dishes of homemade vegetarian cuisine and freshly baked bread.
Above the doorway to the dining room, the instructions “Don’t spit in the soup—we’ve all got to eat” are painted in an elaborate cursive script.
The Dudley Co-operative Society has been dishing up home-cooked food since 1958, when it was established as an alternative housing option at the University.
The Co-op, which is a ten-minute walk from Harvard Square, is divided between two clapboard 19th-century Victorian houses on Mass. Ave.
Martin Eiermann ’10, a co-president of the Co-op, says he objects to his title.
“We’re pretty anti-hierarchical here,” he says as he sits in the Co-op’s library, which evokes the organization’s historic connections to Harvard’s liberal underground.
According to Eiermann, student protesters hatched some of their plans in the late 1960s—including the 1969 takeover of University Hall—in the safety of the Co-op.
Joining the Co-op—one division of Dudley House, a community for students at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences as well as a small number of undergraduates—or renting an apartment allow students to escape on-campus living. Despite common perceptions that living off campus is difficult, costly (especially in the Boston area), and lonely, students who have left the Houses say that the rewards of independent living outweigh the occasional inconveniences.
A DIFFERENT COMMUNITY
In terms of Harvard housing, Jennie M. D’Amico ’10 has seen it all: House life, the Dudley Co-op, and an apartment near Central Square that she shares with her fiance, a dental school student at Boston University.
She and her roommate were placed in Cabot, but they left when they were taken off the Co-op’s wait list in their junior year.
According to Joshua G. McIntosh, associate dean of Harvard College for student life, approximately 100 undergraduates choose to live off campus every year—either at the Co-op or in an apartment of their own.
About 30 juniors and seniors canceled their housing contracts this past year to move off campus for either a semester or the whole year, and five to 10 upperclassmen submitted relocation forms to the Dudley Co-op.
D’Amico describes her time in the Co-op as “the first time I felt like I belonged to a real community at Harvard.”
Just before her senior year, D’Amico moved into an apartment near the Co-op with her boyfriend. Now, they share an apartment in Central Square because they wanted their own space, she says.
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