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Learning to Love the Quad


By Justin D. Osofsky

The long-anticipated envelope arrived at our door. One of my roommates already poured shots (of milk, of course), awaiting the fateful news. He opened the envelope and slowly extracted the piece of paper. Unfolding it and breaking into a fit of hysterical laughter, he dropped to the floor. Then he proceeded to drink from his glass, already refilled at eight in the morning. I picked up the paper and saw the dreaded word--"Pforzheimer." I, too, dropped to the floor, stunned. I was Quadded. We were screwed by the Harvard system that knows no mercy.

Living in "Pfoho" would require some major changes, all seemingly for the worse. I feared that I would gradually lose touch with many of my closest friends, randomized to Eliot House, with its beautiful river view (and accompanying stench), its storied history of snobbishness and, of course, Ted Kaczynski '61. I would rarely again have the opportunity to talk to Ralphie while awaiting those huge slices of Pinocchio's pie, the best in Cambridge. And I thought that I would have to get used to a new area code (666?), given how far the Quad is from the Square.

Over the few remaining weeks of school, these fears were furthered through conversations with upperclass students. When people asked where I got randomized and I responded, "the Quad," a deathly pall fell over the group. Close friends averted this gaze, each waiting for someone else to speak first. Finally, one would inevitably whisper, "I'm sorry" and touch my shoulder.

Each passing day, I became more convinced that Harvaard viewed me as expendable and had dealt me my fate, sending me from Grays East to Pfoho like the first-place New York Yankees exiled Ruben Sierra to the abysmal Detroit Tigers. Many questions crossed my mind: Should I investigate off-campus housing? Should I work out to get in better shape for the daily trek?

Needless to say, as I moved in this year, I was apprehensive about my new housing. Yet, with my first impressions of the house, my concerns began to go away. When I got to Pfoho, rather than passing individuals talking about the intricacies of agrarian democracy, I saw two children skateboarding--accompanied by their mother, riding a BMX dirt bike. As an added bonus, there was no Au Bon Pain with its foul coffee anywhere within the range of my senses. I began to understand the subtle advantages that came with having some distance from the Square.

Over the last few weeks, I've had the initially surprising realization that I like Pforzheimer House and the Quad. Pforzheimer's double-decker dining hall has more than a good atmosphere; the food is actually edible. While a rather sensational article in last week's Crimson made it sound as though pre-med upperclassmen declared war on a roving band of sophomores, no such open animosity exists, and the only real conflict has been over music being played too loud from the spacious rooms.

In addition, I have a great opportunity to get in shape, given the proximity of the Q-RAC and the invigorating walk that gives me an acute sense of alertness in Stats 100. But just to ensure that I fail in my efforts to become an athletic machine, each Quad house offers the irresistible temptation of cable television, whether you would prefer to watch the Cambridge Zoning Board on Public Access Television, the World's Strongest Man Competition on the Deuce, or the creative and ground-breaking new Hootie video on MTV.

Although the Quad offers many amenities, Harvard's administration still needs to take steps toward alleviating some adversities facing its residents. First, Annenberg should be open for interhouse dining, if only for those who live in the Quad, Mather House and Dunster House. One day last week, I was thrown out like last night's dinner--well, at least they didn't try to reheat me, too--as I tried to grab a bite during a short break between classes in the Science Center (and when I then quickly walked to Adams House, it also had a large sign reading, "NO INTERHOUSE").

It is absurd to have to choose between eating a real lunch and being on time to lecture when simply opening up. Annenberg eliminates this dilemma altogether. I suppose Harvard Dining Services could argue that this is the very reason I have Board Plus ($50 per semester to spend at any dining establishment on campus). But $50 really doesn't go far; in practical terms, after buying the irresistible Coffee Press Pot, one can hardly afford anything else--but then again, maybe that's a good thing.

In addition, while the expansion of the shuttle service is a step in the right direction, the service is still could be improved. When the weather is bad, shuttles are more crowded than the football stadium for Harvard home games (which, unfortunately, may not be saying much). Hopefully, with the imminent arrival of another large shuttle bus, this problem will be diminished. In addition, shuttles should run twenty-four hours a day--at least on weekends--for convenience and safety. The recent assaults near Mather House underscore the fact that Cambridge can be a dangerous place to walk in at night.

Harvard also should copy an idea from Yale (if you think it's dangerous around Mather House, just imagine living in New Haven). If first-years no longer have any choice about upper class hosuing, they should know where they will live from the time they enter Harvard. This knowledge would allow students to meet a lot of future housemates, eliminating some of the uncertainity that comes with entering a new house to sophomore year.

My fears about being randomized into the Quad--and the controversy surrounding randomization--were way overblown. Granted, the newly instituted gender controls are a nice touch (some housemates have suggested calling Pforzheimer, with its 70 percent male sophomore class, "Pfratzheimer"), but bieng "Quadded" is not the same as being exiled. However, without great difficulty, the administration could reduce the disadvantages and inconveniences that stem from living farther away from the Yard.

Perhaps the condolences of my friends will eventually be accepted, though. After all, I have not yet lived through a Boston winter in the Quad. But I guess that's why they have classes on videotape.

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