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Debunking the Myth

The Quad Is Not in Timbuktu

By Lynn Y. Lee

So: you got Quadded. And, by the usual guess, you ought to be gnashing your teeth, muttering imprecations against the word "randomization," or bathing in your own tears. Sound about right?

Well, as a resident Quadling (a Currierite, to be exact), I'll let you into a little secret: You're wrong. You got Quadded? That's cause for celebrating--and I'm not just putting on a brave face to make the best of a bad situation. I maintain that the Quad provides the best housing at Harvard, hands-down, no question about it.

As everyone knows, or should know, sophomores in the Quad houses have far better chances of getting singles than their river-dwelling counter-parts. Juniors and seniors are guaranteed them. They're nice singles, too: the rooms in Quad houses range from decent to luxurious, and even the smallest is comparatively spacious. None of your tiny, dingy sophomore quarters or "walk-through" rooms here. (I still remember a Dunster friend's sophomore-year room with a shudder: it was smaller than my closet.)

Quad houses are also kept spotlessly clean, and the recreation areas are incomparably more comfortable and better equipped than those of the river houses. And yes, there is red brick here: Cabot and Pforzheimer have something of the old Harvard charm on the outside, with the added plus of an interior chockfull of modern amenities. No, there's no river view, but there is the Quadrangle itself, an inviting stretch of lawn that's great for field sports, especially Ultimate Frisbee.

Ah, but what about Currier?, you may ask. No gracious red brick exterior, no view even of the Quad. The plainest and most charmless of the Quad houses? The most graceless of all the Harvard houses? Well, yes, if you're passionately attached to the image of ivy-covered brick (and centipedes), white moldings, fireplaces and winding stairs. What Currier has instead: a cozy, bright, immaculate look (it's even cleaner than Pforzheimer); cheerful carpeting and comfortable chairs and sofas tucked in every nook and corner of the house; the most pleasant dining hall on campus, always sociable but never noisy, completed by that famous fountain; elevators; kitchens on every floor in three of the four towers; solariums in every tower equipped with TV/VCRs, and the largest video collection of any house.

The death of suites-with-common rooms (Currier rooms consist almost entirely of pairs of singles connected by bathrooms or sinkrooms) means that you must venture outside your own room to socialize, with the result that Currier residents actually get to know the House Tutors and form close friendships with people outside their rooming group. My blocking group, for example, has merged so successfully with two other blocking groups that hardly anyone remembers who was originally in which group, and no one cares. I have heard of similar situations in the other Quad houses, though suites are more common there. At any rate, all three Quad houses, far from being anti-social, in fact feel much friendlier and homier than all of the river houses put together. I would argue that Currier, at least, is one of the most sociable houses at Harvard.

But the location, you moan, we're marooned! Here's secret number two: the location is not a problem. In fact, its inconvenience is ridiculously exaggerated. The shuttles come so often that the schedule-savvy Quadling, if he or she so chooses, can actually walk a great deal less than your average river rat. Sure, there are down times (usually in the mid afternoon), and in the morning or around lunchtime those red and white buses can get pretty crowded. But the shuttle service, ever sensitive to student suggestion, has improved steadily over the past three years, to the point that there are now two shuttles on the hour, at peak hours, from the Quad to the Yard (a matter of three minutes' driving).

And contrary to popular complaint, the shuttles are quite punctual; the griping you might hear is over the exception, not the rule. Walking or biking provides short periods of unstrenuous exercise, and the distance to the Square is really not much more than it is for Dunster or Mather residents.

The location is also, in one respect, an advantage. I'm talking about Hills Library. Yes, it is a good library, and an under-utilized resource. When every other copy of the book you need for class has been checked out of Widener and Lamont, there's sure to be a copy on reserve at Hilles. Trust me, you won't have much competition with other students.

The Quad's own inhabitants are partly to blame for its image problem. The average Quadling, when asked how he or she can stand living there, will at best murmur that it's not so bad, really and inevitably conclude with a rueful comment on the distance. That's all wrong. The proper response should be: "What are you talking about? It's great!" Too often the Quad resident is actually brainwashed by this kind of misdirected sympathy into feeling sorry for himself or herself. There's really no reason for it. We ought to be smirking, or even openly boasting, not contributing to the prevailing--and totally erroneous--impression that we are victims of randomization who got "stuck" in the Quad.

So here's a threefold message for all on-campus Harvard undergraduates. Future Quadlings: you should be grinning from ear to ear. Present Quadlings: it's time to revamp our image--be proud, and proclaim it loudly! River rats: don't pity us. Just visit us. You truly don't know what you're missing.

Lynn Y. Lee '99, a Crimson editor, is an English concentrator in Currier House--and loving every minute of it. Really.

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