Dorms Close on Foreign Students

Travelling halfway across the globe to return home for the holidays is not an option for many first year international students. But staying in the dorms is often not either.

First year dorms close at 5 p.m. on Wednesday and do not reopen until January 1 at noon. Upperclass students can remain in their houses during the vacation.

"Freshmen cannot live in their dorms over Christmas break," said Darpan Kalra '99, president of the Woodbridge Society of International Students. "When you are an international freshman with no place to go to and you can't live in the dorm, then that is a serious problem."

Kalra said the cost of the plane trip and the long hours that many have to spend in the air to reach their homes deter some from spending the holidays with family and friends.

He said the short time span of the vacation, combined with the necessity to return promptly to study for exams in January, prevents others from returning home.


International students and members of the Woodbridge Society said the administration needs to take the concerns of the international community more into consideration when deciding its policy.

"Something should be done because it is a problem," said Santeri O. Voutilainen '98, treasurer of the Woodbridge Society.

"Woodbridge would like a permanent solution to this problem," Kalra said. "Possible solutions can be allowing international freshmen to live on campus over Christmas break. If not that, the University should think of alternative housing for needy international freshmen."

Elizabeth Studley Nathans, dean of first years, said opening the Yard and Union dorms over the break is not a viable option.

"Security and staff conditions arising from the physical configurations of the Yard and the Union Dorms make closing the freshmen dorms during December break a necessity," she wrote in an e-mail.

She added, "The policy goes back many years. We alert students well before their arrival at Harvard to what the policy is."

Kalra and Voutilainen said the Woodbridge Society is working with the administration to help provide housing for international first years.

Voutilainen said the administration sent out a questionnaire to host families last summer, asking if they would be willing to host students over the holidays. He said he believes several families responded in the affirmative, but their services were not needed this year.

Voutilainen said the Freshman Dean's Office (FDO) has also provided students with homes for the holidays through church host programs around the country.

Kalra said currently many first years spend the holidays with an upperclass friend or stay with a host family.

Voutilainen said that to his knowledge, all international students have now found housing for this vacation.