A West Coast Spin-Off of Harvard University

A West Coast Spin-Off of Harvard University
Brian C. Zhang

This year Stanford's campus-wide tradition of selecting annual house themes has produced "Marvard University," an attempt by student dormitory Mars House to replicate Harvard through building decorum and party themes. Fake ivy is draped over the columns on two sides of the house entrance, while two Harvard-style crests with the parody slogan "Feritas" are displayed above the main doorway.

Sara Grossman, a Stanford senior who serves as Community Manager for the house, said she and four other student staff members came up with the idea of Marvard. Grossman explained that while Stanford's other houses are built in a Spanish style, Mars is one of the oldest dormitories on campus and has an East Coast look.

When students arrived on campus in September, they were invited to attend a Marvard University admissions party with wine and cheese. Grossman photographed each of the students dressed in their best Marvard attire, posed with wine glasses and croquet mallets. The pictures were then printed in black-and-white and posted on students' doorways.

"Obviously, we don't know what it's like to live at Harvard," Grossman said. "All we know is the button-up shirt, old-money stereotype—that's what's in the movies."

Despite playing up the elitist perception of Harvard, Marvard chose to put a different spin on Harvard's motto, Veritas. Grossman explained that "Feritas" means savage and uncivilized in Latin, and that therefore Marvard is about recognizing old traditions and rebelling against them.

"We'll have a 'Keep off the Grass' sign, but then we'll drink beer around it and frolic on the lawn," she said, referring to parties that the house has held on "Marvard Yard."

Grossman said she has enjoyed the process of creating a world within Mars. Yet reactions to Marvard have been "a mixed bag," with some residents telling her, "If I wanted to go to Harvard, I would have."

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