ONCE AGAIN the issue of undergraduate housing is preoccupying administrators and bothering students. The Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life will be called upon today to resolve this all-too-familiar problem.
Any proposal to change the House system must achieve several goals before it should be approved. The next housing plan must retain certain fundamental alternatives for undergraduates. Currently, Currier, North and South Houses offer students a lifestyle much different from that at the River Houses. They have a mixture of four classes. This aids freshmen in adapting to House life and combines formal House staff advising with informal upperclassman counseling that Yard freshmen cannot receive. They have an almost one-to-one male-female ratio. And, the Quad Houses provide an alternative for many to the overbearing, "old Harvard" atmosphere of the River Houses.
Eliminating this alternative would seriously narrow the range of undergraduate experiences. Yet, it is precisely this alternative that would be compromised if the CHUL adopts Dean Fox's plan. That proposal, which would establish three-year Houses throughout the system and house all freshmen in the Yard with the object of eliminating sophomores from Canaday Hall, is singular in its lack of sensitivity for the Quad point of view. One only needs to point out that Fox bases his arguments about the Quad's unpopularity on one of the Quad's acknowledged strong points--four-year Houses--to realize how little Fox seems to care about, or understand, the real problems at hand. As if to further insult Quad residents, Fox suggests that a dining hall be constructed at South House at a cost of approximately $400,000. This part of the proposal, meant to be a sugar-coating for a bitter pill, is actually an old sop that has been promised for years; it should therefore be examined warily.
Meanwhile, students dissatisfied with the plan, who comprise a large majority of the Quad's residents, have offered another proposal. This North House plan, when combined with a proposal to have some residential and some non-residential four-year Houses under a no-choice assignment system, seems to make much more sense. The North House proposal advocates that North House take over several entries of Canaday Hall providing a housing option for Quad affiliates who may want to live in the Yard. This would alleviate the problem posed by River House sophomores living in Canaday and help reduce the psychological distance affecting North House's popularity. The North House proposal, along with a no-choice system, which would eliminate much of the grief surrounding the current assignment system, would maintain the positive aspects of the Quad. By assigning freshmen to Houses before they get here, the no-choice plan leaves the opportunity to change the Houses while helping to destroy the stereotypes that make the housing problem so difficult to resolve. These stereotypes, and the lack of superior facilities and services, are the real problems with which the administration must deal.
It is unfortunate that the debate over the House system has lasted so long. But it will be even more unfortunate if Quad House students have to submit to a plan that benefits sophomores who cannot get into River Houses, solely at the expense of the Quad students' alternative way of life. Any major changes in the Quad should not be undertaken without the full agreement of the people of the Quad. Students from all Houses should support undergraduates' rights to determine their way of life and rally at today's CHUL meeting to defeat the Fox proposal.