Significant changes need to be made to the housing process
Following the conclusion of finals, some students promptly returned home, while others left to begin summer internships. Many, however, remained on campus, intending to stay at least another week. Hundreds of undergraduates, working for various student groups or employers such as the Phillips Brooks House Association or the Harvard Alumni Association, were permitted to remain in Harvard housing past the move out date, as they participated in Commencement-related activities.
The presence of Commencement housing prevents students from being forced off campus during this period while providing alumni on-campus space to hold events and reunions unfettered by the excesses of undergraduate life, particularly on weekends. That said, the Office of Student Life can and should make critical improvements to the process that would make Commencement a more enjoyable experience for all students involved.
Bizarrely, the same individuals who manage regular, academic year housing do not supervise the allocation of Commencement housing. The process is instead managed by dorm crew, which handles the logistics of move-in, including rooming assignments and key distribution. While dorm crew is a competent organization, there are reasons that they do not handle housing during the academic year. Why these same reasons do not apply to Commencement housing is unclear. What is apparent, however, is that the disadvantages of having a less-equipped organization handle student housing were felt last week; reports of females sharing sink rooms with males, disproportionate space allocations, and whole groups of students omitted from the housing lists reveal errors made during Commencement that College administrators would never permit during the academic year.
The lack of formal infrastructure for Commencement housing also leads to logistical inconsistencies and a lack of optimization. Housing assignments are decided without any regard to previous rooming situations, so students are just as likely to be asked to move all of their possessions not in storage down the hall as across campus, even when their own rooms are open and available for Commencement housing. A simple policy permitting students to squat in their previous housing (when available) would significantly reduce the hassle associated with the process. A goal to minimize the distance that students have to migrate would be most desirable; even if the OSL only made incremental steps toward achieving this, the Commencement experience would markedly improve for many non-seniors.
Perhaps most crucially, students are only informed of their rooming assignment less than 12 hours before they are required to move out of regular housing. With campus housing spread miles apart, it becomes a challenge to predict where one will be living. It is difficult to arrange transportation without knowing where the luggage will actually end up, and with a required move-out by noon, many students are thrust into the precarious situation of not having a secure location to store their property. This confusing beginning to Commencement compounds the difficulties faced by many students who have to pack and move out of their rooms only a day after finishing their last final.
Ultimately, Commencement is a rewarding experience regardless of one’s rooming situation, but that does not mean there is not much to improve. The OSL should work to make the housing process safer, more convenient, and more equitable.