Report Calls for College Houses in Allston

Task force recommends moving Quad Houses across the river

The thousand undergraduates who live up Garden Street will soon be a dying breed, under recommendations released yesterday that would move the Quad Houses to Allston and shift Harvard’s center from the Yard to the Charles River.

The undergraduate life task force’s proposal to build three to eight Houses across the River, first reported by The Crimson a month ago, came along with a series of other expected recommendations for the new Allston campus. In addition to this report on undergraduate life, three other reports on sciences, professional schools and culture were also released yesterday.

The recommendations for undergraduate housing, moving the public health and education schools and building a science hub of at least 1 million square feet affirmed and added details to the plan for Allston outlined by University President Lawrence H. Summers in October and first proposed last July.

A “critical mass” of at least 25 percent of undergraduates living in Allston Houses will be key to the success of the campus, the undergraduate life report found. The task force also concluded that locating the new Houses along or close to the River is “essential,” making an eventual relocation of some athletic fields likely. The four reports also lay out a detailed series of possible science components for the campus, from a planned stem cell institute to interdisciplinary research on engineering and the “origins of life.”

The campus would generate a University with three science hubs—Allston, the Longwood medical complex and Cambridge.

Summers emphasized last night that no decisions had been made, calling the reports a “terrific menu” of options. But both he and University Provost Steven E. Hyman said they were pleased that the undergraduate housing possibility—which was proposed internally last summer—had been so strongly endorsed by the task force.

“The task force got very excited about the idea,” Hyman said. “Undergraduates kind of give life to everything, and people saw the mutual benefit and the notion of students being closer to each other along the River and being potentially closer to new educational facilities.”

Summers said he was “impressed” that the task force and its leaders, including Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby, Dean of the Divinity School William A. Graham and Athletics Director Robert L. Scalise, “came to the conclusion in as strong a way as they did.”

After Summers’ October letter recommended that undergraduates live in Allston, the task force conducted a survey that solicited students’ preferences for housing attributes in Allston without asking whether students supported the housing move.

The survey found that distance from the Yard dramatically impacts student life. River House residents were more than twice as likely to return to their dorms in the middle of the day as Quad residents. Quad residents are 10 times as likely to take a shuttle to class, while River residents are 50 percent more likely to exercise outdoors.

Quad residents lose an average of seven “close” River House friends over the course of their upperclass years.

River residents are about a quarter more likely to go out to clubs, while Quad residents are about 30 percent more likely to order food.

The top three student demands for Allston were more varied and late-night eating options, a student center and a better fitness center.

The report also recommends considering substantial improvements to Harvard’s athletic facilities at a time when some of the existing facilities will likely move farther from the River to accommodate the new Houses.

Summers said Scalise and others have been concerned about the quality of the University’s varsity athletics facilities, including Harvard Stadium.

Scalise and Graham were out of town and could not be reached for comment.