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Two-Thirds of Yardlings Get First Choice Houses

By James M. Fallows

Members of the class of '72 got their House assignments last Saturday, and according to Dean Watson, they should be the most satisfied class ever.

Watson said the 65 per cent of this year's freshmen were admitted to their first-choice House. Last year 60 per cent got their first choice, and in the past few years the percentages has dripped as low as 50 per cent.

A total of 92 per cent of the freshmen got into one of their first four House choices this year, up from last year's 87 per cent. The 8 per cent who were left over this year were "arbitrarily assigned," Watson said.

Watson would not say how many freshmen had applied to each of the Houses. "That is strictly confidential information," he said. "We are trying to avoid this sense of 'popular' and 'unpopular' Houses."

The House assignment notices came out about two weeks later than planned this Spring. Watson said that most of the delay was due to "work interruptions after the occupation of University Hall," including the loss of several charts the assignment committee had been working on.

Because of the late admission notices, none of the freshmen received specific room assignments in the Houses, Watson said. The House offices will work over the summer to have room lists ready by the time students return next fall.

Harvard's tenth House--Mather House--will open sometime next Fall, and Watson's office assigned 135 on the 1161 freshmen to Mather.

But since strikes and other construction delays may hold up Mather's opening until Christmas, all the freshmen assigned to Mather have been given temporary assignments in the other Houses.

As soon as the 135 students can move into Mather, the other Houses will be able to start "deconverting" by assigning fewer students to now-overcrowded rooms. 'Our goal is to let every junior and senior have a single bedroom," Watson said.

The deconversion will proceed at different rates in the different Houses, since some are more crowded than others. Watson has not said recently which Houses would lose the most students through deconversion, but last Fall his office reported that Lowell was one of the most crowded Houses and the Winthrop was relatively uncrowded.

By the middle of next year, the other Houses will be able to deconvert further as Mather opens up to its full capacity of 390 students.

Von Stade Seeks Volunteers

"So far we've just been concerned with getting freshmen assigned their," Watson said. "But next year Master von Stade (of Mather House) will ask for volunteers from the junior, and maybe from the senior class."

Watson said the juniors and seniors will be drawn from the other Houses according to deconversion priorities, with the most crowded Houses losing the most students.

For the third straight year, Watson assigned the freshmen according to a complex plan designed to send a fairly equal mix of students to each House. "Everyone seems pretty happy with the plan. It's the best from all standpoints," Watson said last week.

Under the distribution system, each group of freshmen can say which Houses it wants to enter and which ones it wants to avoid. The House Masters then get lists of the groups applying to their Houses, and the Masters tell Watson which students they want most.

The Masters' Voice

"The Masters tell us which students they especially want; which ones they will be happy to take; which ones they will accept; and which ones they do not wan," Watson said. "They can also ask for other students--ones who have not applies to that House."

After Watson gets the students' and Masters' preferences, he and his assistants compile a massive list rating the student groups on several different factors. From information gathered from proctors, senior advisors, athletic coaches, and others, Watson prepares an IBM chart showing each student's:

* Secondary school background;

* rank group at midyear;

* predicted rank list;

* scholastic aptitude test scores;

* father's colllege;

* field of concentration;

*extracurricular activities and athletic performance at Harvard;

* the advisors' and proctors' evaluation of "what kind of person this young man is," on a scale ranging from 1 ("outstanding") to 5 ("having troubles").


From that list, the students with various qualities are divided among the Houses. To maintain relative homogeneity among the groups going to different Houses, Watson assigns each House a quota of students with each listed attribute.

For instance, one of the house this spring took in 142 freshmen. Sixteen were from local prep schools; 11 were from Andover and Exeter; 36 were from other private schools; and 79 were from public high schools. Other Houses had about the same proportions, Watson said.

Because of the attempts to distribute freshmen equally, Watson said, he cannot allow a dissatisfied group of students in one house to switch with a group in another House.


"For instance, a high proportion of blacks wanted to go to Mather House this year. But we just can't put them all into one House. We have to be careful on all these factors to get a balance," Watson said

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