Communal Living

Baking bread, munching on granola and philosophizing about life, co-op residents shun the mundane world of Harvard housing and opt for...

Dinner with 400 of your closest friends. Sparsely attended house committee meetings. Stressed-out neighbors who pack house libraries.

While a house may be the ideal place of residence for most students, there's a band of undergraduates that has rejected this much-ballyhooed house system in favor of baking bread and communal living.

Co-ops offer College free-spirits a taste of the real world and a privacy and freedom that makes long hikes to classes and to the Square worthwhile.

And while co-opers will never represent the mainstream Harvard student, residents say old stereo-types are waning as co-op life attracts more diverse students.

"Harvard's greatest resource," boasts the official Harvard-Radcliffe first-year application pamphlet, is its House system. "Far more than a place to eat and sleep, a House is important in a student's intellectual and social life."


And it is. Harvard's house life is one of the most comprehensive among the nation's universities, with 96 percent of the undergraduate student body living in one of the 12 houses on campus or, as first-years, in the Yard.

But for the 48 students who have renounced the Harvard house tradition, the Dudley and Jordan cooperatives, two alternative on-campus living arrangements, offer communal co-habitation and peer support.

These co-ops, established in the early 1970s, are affiliated with Dudley and North Houses, respectively, and pay rent to the University. They are, however, primarily managed by residents and boast an active student committee and high rates of participation.

And residents say they especially like this responsibility for self-management that co-op life offers and that house life lacks.

"I was looking for an escape from the Yard," says Tracey L. Carter '95, who transferred into Dudley co-op half-way through her first-year.

Carter says the two years she had spent at a prep school helped her adjust to dorm life more easily than her first-year roommates. In the co-ops, she says, she found more maturity and freedom.

"I ended up liking it," says Carter. "It ended up suiting me really well."

Although different students have their own reasons for shunning mainstream housing, this need for a more independent lifestyle is characteristic of all co-opers.

In the co-ops, "There's not that craziness and weirdness of the House," says Nick Hourigan '93, co-president of Dudcly co-op. "The autonomy and freedom is great."

Most students who live in the co-ops say they can also enjoy a community atmosphere that doesn't exist in the houses.