Manners & the (Harvard) Universe

We’re not sure when the last etiquette class was taught at Harvard, but FM decided it would be a good

We’re not sure when the last etiquette class was taught at Harvard, but FM decided it would be a good idea to remind students about what Miss Manners had in mind when discussing how to be polite, particularly in situations unique to our fair university. And we’re not talking about how to write thank-you notes.

1. Cell phone etiquette dictates that your new ring is 10 times more annoying than the conversation you’re about to have, so just answer the damn thing. If you’re in class, try as subtly as possible to press “ignore” and then write an explanatory text message to the caller. In social settings, it’s generally okay to answer the phone as long as you keep the phone call short and sweet. But never—under any circumstances—answer the phone while comforting a sobbing friend who is dealing with an uncooperative significant other, parent, TF, or weight-loss regimen.

2. Libraries are supposed to be for quiet study, so why is it impossible to accomplish anything in Lamont? Perhaps the fact that you plan field-trips there with your 25 closest friends may have something to do with it. If your studying (read: gossiping) session can’t live up to its creative potential elsewhere, be sure to use a small voice when discussing what a small, um, “pen” that guy at the next table has—otherwise, he’ll probably hear you.

3. Like monkeys at the zoo, tourists are at Harvard to be seen and laughed at. Don’t feed them dining hall scraps and please, don’t touch. Especially since the last thing they came into contact with was probably John Harvard’s foot.

4. Prove that chivalry isn’t dead: Gentlemen, hold the door open for the girl behind you. Ladies, say thank-you but hold the next one open for him. And if you live in a swipe card-based locality, don’t let the door slam when someone from your dorm is approaching: like in a rear-view mirror, objects are closer than they appear. You can afford to wait, and they’ll most likely return the favor.

5. Besides inappropriate use of silverware, eating in dining-halls can be fraught with disaster. To be on the safe-side, don’t eat off of the plate of anyone whom you’ve just met, or who is your friend’s significant other, or who looks to have some sort of viral infection. In all other cases, judge by what you’re stealing—while you should be okay picking vegetables and other healthy things off your roommate’s tray, stay the hell away from the popcorn chicken.

6. There are two worlds in college: the sober one and the not-so-sober one. While the two rarely meet (generally a good thing), the morning after tends to cause some awkward moments. If you can remember whom you were with but not what you did, act natural around him/her until they slap you or your friends want to know why you haven’t slapped him/her yet. After that, it should be a bit clearer. If you can remember what you did but not with whom you did it, assume it was that really hot junior in your Ec section, and not your room-mate’s ex—if you’re wrong, there’s always next weekend. And lastly, if you can’t remember a thing, you’re in the clear.

7. If you’re walking through the Science Center and someone hands you a flyer about a cultural/religious/political rally/march/festival/publication that you couldn’t care less about, wait until you’re out of viewing-range to crumple it up and throw it in a trash can. Tossing it under the table you got it from might be considered a bit rude.

8. Dormcest has a bad rap, but some find it fun and convenient. But don’t hook up with your roommate—that’s just laziness and it will make for awkward conversations. Go across the hall instead.

9. When guests are visiting for the weekend, make sure your futon is clean, that you have an extra pillow and blanket, and that you actually have something planned. And by the way, no one wants to listen to you two reminiscence about that amazing July 4th weekend you spent with “you know who” doing “you know what”— especially the part where you give each other a meaningful look and burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter while the rest of the room looks on in pained silence.

10. If you end up being sick after a long night, try to make sure you do it outside. And then pray for rain.

11. Sexiling your roommate for the night is one thing; doing it all week long is something else entirely. If you and your libido have no other recourse, you’d better be ready to cash out a lot of money on “I’m sorry” gifts to make up for the permanent back-pain your roommate got from sleeping on futons. Prescription pain-killers are a nice gesture too.

12. Do poke your closest friends on Do not poke all 200 of your acquaintances. Your social life will suffer.

13. While taking an hour long shower, do not convert the bathroom into your own personal rainforest, complete with floating clouds of mists and flowing rivers. Other people will need to come in after you and they probably would like to actually be able to see themselves in the mirror. The note you left in the steam explaining that you’re “hot, hot, hot!” is not useful when someone is attempting to apply makeup.

14. Your parents are not your slaves, and while it’s perfectly acceptable for them to treat you and your 20 closest friends to brunch at Henrietta’s Table, they shouldn’t have to fix up your room too. Be polite, and clean up after yourself.

15. And lastly, do pop your collar. It’s not really an etiquette thing—it’s just a really fun way to make people mad.