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A FRIEND OF OURS was recently told he'll be living in a North House sink closet" next Really.
Next fall will not mark the first time that sophomores have been assigned to convert lounges and storage rooms because housing officials underestimated the number of residents who would return to a given House the next year. But the problem does seem to have reached epidemic proportions.
Some 60 students at North House and Curner House may well be deprived of ordinary housing next fall--forced to live in converted House areas that are often without telephones, locks, and other expected conveniences, and apparently far less safe from theft than ordinary House rooms. Those who do eventually receive normal housing when upperclassmen take leaves of absence second semester must endure another inconvenience having to move twice in one year.
The University does not deserve full blame for being unable to find suitable housing for its NoHo nomads. Harvard was caught largely off-guard by the current student forego leaves absence and complete their Harvard educations while tuition is still in five digits. Then again, we're not entirely sure the University's critics are wrong in suggesting that the surplus also reflects Harvard's desire to do almost any thing to bring in more cash.
But Harvard can act now to pick up the pieces and prevent futures mishaps. Most critically, it must begin accepting smaller classes. The news that the College has decided to limit next year's class to 1600 students seems encouraging, before beginning to take students off the waiting list the College should again examine whether their acceptance will eventually displace other students from regular housing.
And as a remedial gesture, the University should settle upon some fair system to give preference in next year's in House lotteries to this year's displaced students. Harvard should also act to house its unfortunates as soon as possible--and should offer them the option of occupying vacant rooms in other Houses. In placing those students, the University should be unusually considerate, making sure the problem of subpar rooms is not coupled with that of disagreeable roommates.
Finally, the College should reexamine its overall method of housing assignment. Some contend that the formula used to calculate housing space favors the River Houses by failing to consider that those Houses usually have living rooms while Quad suites often do not. Others are upset because they deliberately opted for Quad houses to get singles, and found themselves living in either reconstituted common rooms or what officials politely call "ec-doubles"--single rooms into which two students have been squeezed. And we find it dismaying that many houses hold rooms vacant for months on end for "faculty guests," while undergraduates reside in cramped quarters.
The University should address those problems in particular, in addition, of course, to preventing another overrun in admissions. The oft-stated goal of making Harvard a tightly knit community remains a fine ideal. But when "closeness" begins to imply living in slummy ex-washrooms, we've got to wonder whether the Harvard Experience isn't actually the Harvard Ordeal.
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