Housing Heartbreak

On March 8, I happened upon a group of distraught girls crying in Annenberg. They were shedding tears on what they said was their “worst day at Harvard so far”—earlier that morning, a person dressed in a fish costume handed them a letter explaining that they had been assigned to Cabot House. Crying over which House you were assigned by a random lottery sure seems immature, but can we really judge them for believing misconceptions about Cabot that upperclassmen had been telling them throughout their first semester and a half? Freshmen should not be conditioned pre-Housing Day to think that being placed in a specific House will be the death of them. The negative attitudes about housing created by upperclassmen should be replaced by more positive showcases of House spirit.

Every House has its merits and deficiencies, but the bottom line is that there is no such thing as bad housing at Harvard. As much as we cringe about the distance of the Quad, Mather, and Dunster from the Yard, ultimately all the Houses are relatively close to class. The Quad Houses are a mere 0.7 miles away from Memorial Hall. This 15 minute walk to class is short compared to the commutes faced at schools like Boston University, where students often have to take public transportation to get to class. Not to mention that Harvard provides a very efficient shuttle system. Mather Express and Quad Express depart from their respective stops every ten minutes from 8:20 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 7:40 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. respectively.

Every year, freshmen are under the grossly misplaced belief that being “quadded” is the single worst thing that can happen to them at Harvard. And that Winthrop is full of cockroaches. And that Mather is the ugliest building on campus (Graduate School of Design, anyone?). On the eve of Housing Day, freshmen partake in “River Run”, a symptom the desperation that they feel about getting conveniently-located Houses like Adams or luxurious Houses like Eliot or Kirkland rather than a House in the Quad. When I ran into one of my closest friends during River Run, she grabbed my arm and whispered “Anything but Cabot. Anything but [expletive] Cabot.” When I saw her the next day, she was wearing a Cabot hat and was cheering along with the rest of Cabot inside Annenberg. By the end of the week, she was gushing to me about Cabot’s fantastic House life, energetic House community, and spacious rooms.

She, much like many freshmen out there and through no fault of her own, did not understand until the aftermath of Housing Day that all the Houses at Harvard are amazing places to live for the next three years. Upperclassmen are mostly responsible for creating this culture of misconceptions about housing. Soon after my blocking group received our housing assignment, I ran into my linkmates, who told me about their “hilarious” housing story—people chanted “Currier” outside their room for a good minute before storming in and announcing that my linking group had in fact been placed in Leverett House. The Crimson’s House rankings are followed religiously by freshmen—can you blame those who get into Dunster for not jumping for joy when they have been told by our student newspaper that they are officially a member of the worst House on campus? We should take it upon ourselves to create a more positive atmosphere of housing for freshmen. Rather than perpetuating incorrect stereotypes about particular Houses’ deficiencies, we should be doing more to advertise our Houses’ merits. The Freshman Dean’s Office should consider reserving a “Housing Weekend” a few weeks before Housing Day, where all the Houses can stage an open House with food and events. This way, freshmen will see that all Houses at Harvard have merits, and the deficiencies that freshmen incorrectly talk about really are minor in the face of a vibrant housing community at Harvard.

My blocking group was told by a crowd of excited Matherites and gorillas that we would be spending the next three years in the “box Dunster came in.” Seven of us were exuberant when we found out that we would be in a party House with a shuttle (we are a particularly party-prone and lazy blocking group). But my best friend asked me to throw her out of the window. As an art student, she could not stand the idea of living in modern-style Mather for three years. But a view from the high rise, a tour of Mather, a Master’s open House, and several parties later, she now has more Mather fever than anyone else in our blocking group. I know that she was not the only one who was distraught on Housing Day. These negative feelings are completely unnecessary and can be avoided if we take steps to reduce the amount of negativity surrounding housing for the sake of the incoming Class of 2016.

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