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In Love With [Pf-OPEN]

By Rosalind S. Helderman and Adam A. Sofen, CRIMSON STAFF WRITERSs

If Pforzheimer House had a motto, it might be, "Thanks, got it."

From obscure textbooks to formalwear to freshly baked brownies, if a Pfoho resident wants to buy it, borrow it, sell it, use it or just talk about it, he or she can turn to Pfoho-open and have a reply in minutes.

"Pfoho-open has helped me find whatever I need when I need it--be it dreidels for a curriculum for the Mission Hill after-school program, or a notary public to notarize a copy of my passport for a scholarship, or directions on how to get to the Providence Airport," Morgan E. Hall '01 says.

Almost all residents subscribe to Pfoho-open, the loved, hated open e-mail list that serves as a forum for whatever students want to talk about.

It is a unique institution among the Houses. Adams House recently created a similar list--Adams-schmooze--but it doesn't have Pfoho-open's long pedigree of the bizarre and the mundane.

"I remember a posting dated at 3 a.m. Saturday asking for a pair of black socks...and then a posting dated 20 minutes later saying, 'Thanks, got it!' Insanity," says resident tutor Warren R. Brown '??.

The list contributes to Pfoho's intimate, gossipy reputation. Living in one of the smallest Houses at Harvard, Pforzheimer residents get to know each other through those random e-mail messages dashed off in the middle of the night.

"It's a small House so you get to recognize names on Pfoho-open fast," Susan P. Long '02 says.

If someone in Pforzheimer has a cold, everyone knows--they've asked for cold medicine on the list. When one student's mother sent him a barrel of peanuts, he invited the whole House to partake.

But tempers can flair on the list, especially during exam period. Allston Burr Senior Tutor Dirk Killen sends periodic warnings reminding students to review their prose before bringing it to cyberspace. Some students have even been banned permanently from the list for inappropriate language.

And e-mail inboxes become clogged during especially heated exchanges. The list can produce dozens of postings in an hour, including messages complaining about the number of messages.

But House residents stay subscribed anyway--they say the list builds House community and spirit.

During last fall's "war" with Adams House, publicity through the list helped muster hundreds of militaristic residents with painted faces and banners, ready for combat.

And the list is too useful to ignore. All quotes for this story, for instance, were obtained on Pfoho-open.

Thanks, got it.

--Rosalind S. Helderman and Adam A. Sofen

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