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What to Do About the Quad

Five Answers

By Margaret A. Shapiro

When housing first became co-residential back in 1970, the system, as one administrator recently put it, "worked." Men were as anxious to live at the Quad as women were to live in the River Houses simply because the arrangement was so new. But as the newness wore off, the popularity of the Quad began to decline and the administration was faced with the problem it now faces every spring: sophomores irate at having been placed at the Quad, demanding to be moved to a River House.

The problems of students' dissatisfaction with their housing--and all its educational repercussions--were finally tackled this summer by Presidents Horner and Bok and five Faculty deans. The five options the group settled on for possibly remedying the situation were released in a report this week.

1 Renovate the Quad

The University could basically do nothing except renovate the Quad. Renovations would cost at minimum $655,000 and at maximum about $2 million.

The upgrading--in North and South Houses--would include carpeting, painting, revamping of electrical and mechanical systems, water proofing, new suites, and masters' residences. The report also recommends in the way of improvements that athletic facilities be built as "soon as possible" on Observatory Hill near the Quad.

Though upgrading the Quad would make it more attractive physically to students, the report does state that these changes may not affect its popularity at all. This option also leaves, the report states, "20 per cent of the sophomore class living outside their assigned Houses."

2 All Freshmen in the Yard

Option 2 consists of a slightly changed status quo. All freshmen would be placed in the Yard so that the two types of House systems--the Quad's four-year Houses and the three-year River Houses--would be made into one by converting the quad into three-year House. This proposal would also require that North and South Houses be renovated.

There are problems with this option. As the report notes, this plan would "unify the freshmen at the expense of four-year Houses"--precisely what staunch supporters of Quad life want to avoid. In addition, the report continues, "it would be necessary to assign a larger number of sophomores to the Quad," a situation that that could work against the University's intention of making housing satisfactory to students.

3 All Freshmen at the Quad

Unlike the two preceeding proposals, this plan would substantially change the character of housing at Harvard. All freshmen would be placed at the Quad, and the Yard, that bastion of Harvard tradition, would be converted into three upperclass Houses. This option solves the problem of unpopularity of the Quad and allows the College to increase enrollment by about 200 through freshman crowding. However, it could, the report cautions, isolate the freshmen in a "ghetto."

The much greater capital outlay required for this plan is also a drawback. Lehman Hall would be made into a Yard House dining hall; the Union would be divided into a dining hall for encompassing a Union dorms House and Dudley House; and Memorial Hall would have to be converted to a dining hall.

4 A Year at the Quad and One in the Yard

The fourth proposal, 1-1-2, has turned out to be the most controversial and has very little support either among students or faculty. It would place all freshmen at the Quad and sophomores in the Yard. Only juniors and seniors would live in the River Houses. The report leans toward 1-1-2 as an attractive proposal because it provides an "opportunity for fresh approaches to both the freshman and the sophomore years," though the possibility of both a freshman and sophomore "ghetto" developing is not ignored. This option is also less costly then others because it allows "a modest increase in the size of the college with little new construction."

Less money tied up in building and renovation leaves more "resources available for the improvement of undergraduate education."

5 Sixteen Four-Year Houses

The final option--housing all students in 16 four-year Houses--"is considered by some," the report states, "to be the most desirable system." Despite its desirability, with a price tag of as much as $20 million, this option is not under serious consideration.

Another drawback is that this plan forces the College to admit fewer students, thus reducing tuition intake, the Faculty's main source of income. At the same time, expenditures would increase because of the amount of building--masters' residences, dining halls and libraries--needed to equalize all 16 Houses.

If the University finds sufficient funds, this proposal might be a serious alternative to the present housing problems because of its potentially great educational impact.

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