House Wars Fail To Ignite

House war descends on Harvard, but fails to start a revolution

Hunter A. Maats ’04 was a neutral first-year when war last broke out among the Houses at Harvard.

This year, as Mather’s “secretary of war,” Maats instigated a five-week battle pitting at least five river Houses and one Quad House against each other.

The effects of the war were felt across campus—from the missing gong in the Adams House dining hall, to a naked war rally held after Primal Scream, to the stench of dead fish permeating Kirkland House entryways.

But Maats, who led the war efforts along with fellow Matherites Zachary A. Corker ’04, Paul H. Hersh ’04 and Darren S. Morris ’05, defended his mission.

“The war was not some sort of personal ego trip as some people have suggested,” Maats said. “Our concern was making the campus an enjoyable place to live.”

In addition to serving as “czar” of the Mather House Committee (HoCo) with Corker, Maats is also an actor with the Hasty Pudding Theatricals and a member of the cheerleading squad.

Corker, a history concentrator who served as the war’s “minister of propaganda,” said he conducted extensive research prior to the declaration of war to evaluate what was missing from House life.

“I learned a lot about the Harvard House system and came to realize that we have lost a lot of things, such as House pride and youthful energy,” Corker said. “Harvard kids have the tendency to take everything very seriously and that’s fine in the classroom. But outside of that, lighten up, you know?”

While only a small elite attended the council’s strategy sessions, Maats and Corker said they encouraged all of Mather House to join the war effort.

“It was a war to be won in the minds and hearts of the public,” Maats said.


The war began at the stroke of midnight on Jan. 20 and ended at dawn on Feb. 26—lasting a total of one month, 5 days and 22 hours, raging in the Yard, in the House dining halls and over House-open lists and causing the death of 250 goldfish.

At Primal Scream, four Matherites led a “war rally” to initiate the hostilities. Calling their homeland “Mathergrad—the Kremlin of the Charles,” they painted themselves in the colors of the Soviet flag, yellow and red, and blasted the Soviet national anthem on loudspeakers.

Mathergrad then declared war on Kirkland House, demanding that it cede strategic territory along DeWolfe Street and return the Adams House gong, which had gone missing on Jan. 18.

Days passed and Kirkland residents did not answer the ultimatum. In retaliation, Mathergrad dropped over 250 goldfish in the door boxes of Kirkland residents on Feb. 10.

In response to the fish fiasco, Cabot House formed its own Department of War and allied with Mathergrad. Dunster House entered the fray by stealing the Eliot House banner, though it was turned over to the Harvard University Police Department subsequently.