Diversity Concerns Affect Possibility Of Randomization

For nearly two decades, Harvard administrators have debated an issue that will not die.

While student groups have focused on contraceptive counseling, community service and campus politics, House masters and administrators have enacted a series of housing reforms.

And each time administrators have attempted to change the system, students have protested, saying they are being denied their right to choose.

Currently, first-year students may choose four houses. Students are then assigned to houses by lottery. This year 90 percent of first-years received one of their four choices, according to the Harvard Housing Office.

The College housing office this week would not release statistics about the percentage of people randomized into five houses this year--Cabot, Currier, Leverett, Mather and Quincy. Administrators at house offices said they did not have the information or refused to release it.

Next week, Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 will decide whether to completely randomize the first-year housing lottery.

Jewett has said in the past that he leans toward a randomized system, but he has been willing to listen to a variety of proposals and points of view.

Some house masters, house committee chairs and students interviewed this week strongly support randomization, saying it promotes diversity, eliminates stereotypes and lessens stress on first-years during the busy spring term.

Others speak vehemently against randomization, saying it destroys house character, infringes upon students' right to choose where they live and prevents people with similar interests and backgrounds from living together.


When President Lowell founded the house system in the 1930s, he hoped that every house would be a microcosm of the College.

Until the early 1970s, however, each masterchose which students would be placed in his houseon the basis of student applications andinterviews, according to Secretary of the Facultyof Arts and Sciences (FAS) John B. Fox Jr. '59.

The College imposed constraints on the numberof prep school graduates allowed, as well as onthe number of students from academic Group I orGroup II allowed per house, Fox said.

In 1971, the application system was eliminatedand students were asked to rank all 12 houses.

That system was extremely unpopular, accordingto Fox.