Three years ago today, a group of nine girls sat in a common room in Wigglesworth waiting for the most important letter we would receive since the one telling us we had gotten into Harvard.
House after house passed by Wigg that morning, eliciting screams of joy or silences of resignation from our entrywaymates. Texts began to come in from friends around the Yard. We began to wonder if we had forgotten to submit our blocking form online.
Finally, the knock on the door came. We flung it open to find a group of oddly-dressed upperclassmen screaming at us. We began jumping and screaming too, until finally one of my blockmates asked the question we all couldn’t answer.
“Which house are you?”
The jumping stopped, the giant flag stood steady, and we were finally able to reconcile the formalwear with our future home—Adams House.
The upperclassmen left, and my blockmates, linkmates, and I celebrated our excellent fortune on winning the lottery (because no matter what the haters say, Adams is the best house on campus, and my linkmates’ home of Quincy isn’t half bad either). Then one of my blockmates pulled out her cell phone to text the absent member of our octet, and two of my linkmates ran out to the field hockey field.
Because on that defining morning of our Harvard career, five girls out of our group of 14 weren’t there. They were off at morning practice and on a flight to Texas for a team spring break trip.
There’s no doubt that blocking and linking with varsity athletes has been a defining part of my Harvard career, just as living in Adams has been. But for many of my blockmates, Adams is more of a dorm than the home I’ve come to know.
It’s true that my soccer-playing blockmates have a built-in community through their team that I, as a non-athlete, lacked during my freshman year. In that way, it makes sense that I’ve embraced Adams more, because it gives me that community they already had.
But does it really have to be that way?
Housing Day marks the one major social event every year that doesn’t revolve around a game of some sort. We saw last weekend how the school can unite behind a team in pursuit of history—and whenever a UC-sponsored tailgate for a night game pops up, undergrads come out in force.
We’ve also seen that athletes are some of the most spirited members of our community, as evidenced by the rows of football players who turned out to the Penn and Princeton basketball games last weekend, using their whiteboard to educate the less-educated fans on how best to mock the losing team.
But on Housing Day—which is, in my opinion, as great an excuse for school spirit and day drinking as Harvard/Yale—many of these athletes are automatically excluded because of lift, practice, or team trips.
That’s not to say that all athletes are removed from their house communities—far from it. My own house boasts a varsity athlete as a HoCo co-chair, IM crew teams across campus are coached by varsity rowers, and men’s basketball junior co-captain Keith Wright recently lent his rap talents to the Leverett Housing Day video. But when you can’t even be there to share in the excitement of Housing Morning, it’s a little bit harder to get psyched up about house life.
So maybe, just this once, we can cancel pre-dawn practice and let our student-athletes be students for a morning.
Many of us put our school work on hold for an afternoon or evening to come support our classmates on the field, so it seems only fair that athletes have the option to put practice on hold for a few hours once a year to support their houses. And for the freshmen who would otherwise learn of their housing assignment from texts received on a plane or from the screams of their blockmates over a practice-field fence, they’d get to partake in one of the quintessential experiences of being a Harvard undergrad.
Freshmen, good luck this morning. I hope you all get to be there for the moment when you win the lottery (if you get in Adams, that is. Eliot sucks).
Now if we could only convince professors that midterms on Housing Day are morally reprehensible...but that’s a whole other story.
—Staff writer Kate Leist can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.