RandoMizaTion: The First Week

The time for talk is over.

After years of planning, discussion and much conflict, the experiment of randomization is about to begin.

For the first time in Harvard history, all sophomores are moving into houses not of their own choosing but to which they were randomly assigned by the College administration.

While house masters profess to be ready for the influx of a diverse group of students, the meeting of established house character and new residents this week has not always been cordial.

And entering students say that at least in Adams House, they have not been greeted with a warm reception.


That house, which has been best known for its alternative lifestyle, has yet to offer a single event this fall for incoming students, according to sophomores moving in.

"I think it would have been nice if there was a more concerted effort to welcome us," Sarah D. Perhouse '99 says.

And last spring just after housing assignments were announced, a vitriolic thread on that house's news-group attacked the placement of a group of returning missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Adams.

College officials have argued that the reason for randomizing the house populations is to try to break down the traditional stereotypes of house residents: Mather as the jock house, Pforzheimer as the pre-med house, Eliot as the elitist house and Adams as the gay house.

Former dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 decided to implement randomization in the spring of 1995.

When he took office that summer, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 endorsed the policy and carried through the first completely random spring housing lottery.

After a series of complaints about the policy change, including a rally outside University Hall, Lewis agreed to review the success of randomization after three years if the Committee on College Life asks that he do so.

Most house officials say they are trying to welcome incoming students as they have in the past, ignoring the possibility that this year's grand experiment has created any significant differences.

"We always have had lots and lots of spectacular orientation programs," says Eliot House Co-Master Kristine Forsgard.

Most houses offer sophomore orientation programs, including sophomore outings, dinners and entryway meetings with resident tutors.

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