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We have all been through it. As freshmen, we anxiously awaited that fateful spring day on which we received the judgment that could make or break our Harvard years: House assignments. This year's freshmen were especially cautious in plotting their housing strategies. Some relied on computer readouts, intricate polls and the ever-trustworthy grapevine for data on their housing game plan.
Although most rising sophomores were placed in one of their three chosen Houses in this year's lottery, there was wailing and gnashing of teeth among the 17 per cent who were destined to live in a House they fervently hoped to avoid. Many of the most disappointed freshmen were assigned to one of the Quad Houses.
Since the assignments, however, many of these students have sampled their future Houses and decided that, while there may be plenty of room for improvement at the Quad, it is not as bad as they feared.
Helping disgruntled sophomores adjust to life at the Quad is a major concern of the Quad House masters. "It's going to be very hard," Hanna Hastings, co-master of North House, admits. Hastings and co-master J. Woodland Hastings hope to sponsor more House activities and they are adding three more tutors to the present staff to cover more areas of interest. And the Hastings plan to participate wholeheartedly in House life. "We certainly will continue to be very visible and to be as active as we can," she says.
North House has a lot of good things going for it, she believes. "We've got a certain sense of community and we hope the enthusiasm of the tutors and the present North House community will be contagious," she says.
Rulan C. Pian, master of South House, is also optimistic about the feeling of community at her House. The House is quieter and more friendly than the River Houses and the masters want to keep it that way, she says.
Pian says she is glad that some freshmen living in the Yard will have a chance to come live at the Quad. Once students are settled at Radcliffe, they will grow to like it, she believes. The anti-Quad prejudice stems from ignorance of what the Quad is really like, she says.
"There are several [students] who have expressed to me that they don't want to live at the Quad forever, but they don't want to try a River House and come back. I understand that psychology," she says.
One future Quad resident, Eugene J. Green '80, says he neither expected nor wanted to live in South House next year and he was initially upset, thinking he would be isolated from an active social life at the River Houses. But he has resolved to make the most of his situation. He was pleased to find lots of friends and "rowdy freshmen" at the room selection lottery and says he anticipates more than one lively party next year.
The Quad will undergo many physical changes during the coming year, such as the construction of a South House dining hall and the remodeling of the main dormitories in North House to include suites. Other proposed alterations include the expansion of shuttle bus service to and from the Quad, the extension of open hours at Hilles Library, and the relocation of the Social Studies office to the Hilles basement.
Green feels there are many other steps the University can take to make South House more attractive. He wants to work with other students in the House, possibly through the Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life, to improve and expand athletic and recreation facilities at Radcliffe.
"If I really put my mind to it, and make the most of what the Quad has to offer, I may stay here for two, three, or four years," Green said. "Just because I'm in the Quad, I'm not going to suffer."
James Mulqueeny Jr. '80 says when he first learned he was assigned to South House, he felt "screwed by the system and really shocked." He and his roommates could not believe that their carefully calculated housing choices worked against them.
The room lottery helped Mulqueeny change his mind about the House. "I love it. I didn't know I'd have a single, I didn't know there would be co-ed bathrooms or that I'd be right over Vinnie's Grill," he says.
Mulqueeny, Doug Oman '79 and Hector Terraza '78 are now searching for a new name for the House. "South House is a temporary name at best," he says, adding that "it's time for some historical names."
Of the names they proposed to the House committee, "Walker, [after James Walker, a former Harvard president] looks like a favorite right now, because it would be the only House named like a street that would be on that street," Mulqueeny says.
"It seemed to be the best thing we could do for South House without costing it a mint," he says, adding that the House would only have to pay for new letterheads and change of address with the post office, as "South House" appears nowhere on the dormitories themselves.
Mulqueeny believes that South House has been viewed as a second-rate House for long enough, and that a new name will boost its image. "We're not a leftover pot anymore. We're different people and we have to start now to keep from feeling like second-rate people," he states.
Although Mulqueeny says his River-bound friends have promised to visit him at South, he is not sure how much faith to put in their pledges. In the meantime, he feels there are plenty of nice people living at South House
Amidst the masses of rising sophomores shifting residences and changing lifestyles, there are a few currently living at the Quad who are content to stay right where they are.
"I know a lot of people who were put here against their will this year, and they ended up liking it O.K.," Elame D. Papafrangos '80 says. After considering a move to the River, Papafrangos and her roommate decided to remain in North House next year. "We were sitting here, trying to list good things about the River, and we'd keep rooting for North House," she explains. "There was just something about the Quad that was our own. Everybody seemed to be going to the River but the Quad had something special," she says.
Adrienne Booth '80, who will remain in South House next year, says she visited almost every River House before the lottery. "The more I saw the River, the more I liked the Quad," she says.
Both Papafrangos and Booth prefer the rooming arrangements in the Quad Houses to those at the Yard and River. "Corridor life is really great. It's much better than entries," Papafrangos feels. "When you live in entries, you have to make a conscious effort to visit other people. On a corridor, you just wander down the hall into someone's room. It's much closer, like a family," she adds.
Booth says she likes the idea of having a single, adding that four or five friends can select rooms on the same floor but still retain their privacy.
Andrea C. Eisenberg '80 of Currier House says her "first and only priority" is having her own room again. "The River Houses all seem beautiful, but as I couldn't get my own room, none of them appealed to me," she explains.
These three students agree that the Quad's distance from Harvard Yard, a factor often regarded as Radcliffe's greatest disadvantage, is actually an advantage for several reasons.
Booth says the distance allows her "to get away from classes at the end of the day." Eisenberg says she likes to go to the Yard when she is "in the mood for a party," adding that she still enjoys coming home to "a place where I can close the door and have a room of my own."
Returning to the Quad for lunch can be inconvenient but Eisenberg says it can be an advantage. She frequently eats lunch at River Houses, meets different people there, and prevents the feeling of isolation some Quad residents complain of.
Jay S. Duker '80 and Harry I. Pass '80, currently roommates in North House, wanted to move to Kirkland House, but were reassigned to North House. They regard themselves and other freshmen who will remain at Radcliffe as the "dinosaurs of the Quad."
"Our kind is becoming extinct. There's not going to be anyone else stuck up here for four years," he says.
The Quad is a nice place to spend freshman year, Duker thinks, but he wanted the chance to experience life in a River House. "It's a pain in the ass to walk to sports from here," he laments, referring to the paucity of athletic facilities near Radcliffe. But Duker and Pass have accepted their fate. Duker says they had anticipated leaving the Quad but, "now, as we face living here for the rest of our collegiate careers, we're getting more involved in the House. Harry talked to Ann Spence [assistant dean of the College] to get basketball courts built here."
Duker says he will miss the "atmosphere" of a River House but heard his roommates might set up a cardboard fireplace in their living room to compensate.
The rising sophomores who will live in the Radcliffe Houses next year, whether by choice or by assignment, are hopeful that life there will be as good, if not better, than life at the River Houses. By discovering the advantages of the Quad and trying to solve its problems, they are determined to make the most of what could otherwise be a woeful situation. Maybe that dreaded spring lottery does not make or break life at Harvard after all.
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