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Getting Advice

Meet Your Live-in Mommy or Daddy

By Charles C. Matthews

Hold on a second. You thought that your Harvard acceptance letter was also a ticket to unrestrained freedom? No parents or boarding school advisers for four years? Almost, but not quite. Just about every freshman dorm entryway has a proctor who acts, among other things, as a live-in mommy or daddy.

Although most of the proctors are pretty easygoing, their intended function is to act as the resident enforcer of University rules and regulations. Some proctees see their proctor--most of whom are Harvard graduate students--twice a year when study cards are due. Busy schedules at the Medical School and upcoming dissertation deadlines often leave some proctees proctorless.

There are exceptions, however. Some first-year Harvardians get good advice, a listener during crises and even a friend from proctor relationships.

The proctors are as diverse a group as the students they advise, and all of them live in freshman dorms near their proctees. Each proctor is responsible for helping between 20 and 40 students with academics, keeping an eye on dormitory rowdiness and cultivating some kind of a social atmosphere among their proctees. The Freshman Dean's Office encourages proctors to set 20 hours per week aside for time with freshmen. Occasionally, dedicated advisers will hold events such as wine-and-cheese get-togethers, study breaks and spring cook-outs. Some may even go out of their way to eat with the students at the Union.

If you decide to play ice hockey in your living room or set fire to your roommate's desk, your proctor will probably lay down a few guidelines. But, beyond regulating minor catastrophes, proctors are generally lenient and have not enforced curfews (none exist anymore) for at least 10 years.

Most of the 66 proctors also double as academic advisers. However, because proctor groups are larger than adviser ones, some Yardlings must travel beyond their entryway to find academic counseling. Yet, don't think it's taboo to ask your proctor academic questions even if he or she is not your official adviser. Advisers will hold more formal discussions than proctors. Many of these concern concentration course and even career choices. The bulk of their work comes at the start of the semester when advisers schedule individual meetings with freshmen to help them choose courses as well as to sign their study cards.

Proctors are provided with free room and board (up to 500 free meals). Associate Dean of Freshmen Susan Lewis says the University takes in about 20 new proctors each year, looking particularly for people who plan to stay for at least two years.

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