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Elliott Perkins '23, Master of Lowell House, asserted yesterday that while "there are differences between the Houses," the number of first choice applications a House receives has very little to do with those differences.
"I've seen this House go from top to bottom in the number of first-choice applications," said Perkins, "but the last two classes that have come here are as good as any I've seen."
Although a House may not attract a great number of applications, the selection system based on distribution quotas assures that each House will get its desired share of excellence stated Perkins. The Masters can thus shape the House through the selection process, for each Master tends to approach the selection of students in a different way.
Perkins declared that the importance of the student applications lies not in the distribution of the Freshman class, but in "certain human values" that are derived from giving students a chance to express their preferences. He stated that he believes freshmen are much happier under the preference system than they would be under an arbitrary machine selection process such as that employed at Yale.
The unofficial head of the Masters' Council said he would "just as soon give students the chance to choose their House" even though he believes freshmen "don't really know much about the Houses."
Perkins charged that "House facilities are not equal" in pointing to some of the differences between Houses. He cited the great number of applications to Quincy and Leverett Houses as an indication that differences in the facilities offered by Houses do exist.
But, fortunately, students are selected on the basis of more than architectural preference through the distribution system, Perkins stated. In spite of the varying accommodations available in the Houses, Perkins said he does not feel that "a man's quarters are the things that make him glad to have been in a House." The particular spirit developed through the interchange between students, tutors, and the Master is the most important and "exciting" feature of any House, he emphasized.
Masters crucially affect the "style" of the Houses both through the members they select and the way they administer their Houses, Perkins admitted. These styles may differ, but "they are all Harvard and they are all good. If Masters didn't have any effect on the Houses, why should we take the time from teaching and writing to take charge of a House? There must be something is believing that a Master greatly influences a House," he declared.
Perkins, however, was careful not to overemphasize the difference between the Houses. "When we say it doesn't make any difference what House a student chooses, we are only trying to tell freshmen that selecting a House is not going to make or break their Harvard career," the Master stated.
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