Advice Column

Another year, another $300 dropped on books, another advice columnist to pave the way for a semester free of social gaffes and academic woes. Like the fall TV season, Dear Sara is new and addictive, although decidedly lacking in terrorist threats, Dharma Initiative Ranch Composite, and Patrick Dempsey. I’ll try to work on that last one, for the benefit of all of us.

Before I pass on the 17-20 words of wisdom I’ve accumulated in my years here, I want to take a moment to introduce myself, and possibly convince you to contact me, should you be in need of advice or just particularly bored in lecture. As a senior, I’ve seen all that there is to see at Harvard, and things on this campus have changed in surprising ways over the past three years. Do you remember Abercrombie and Fitch in the Square? Life without Felipe’s or a Women’s Center? Larry Summers? I do. I’ve taken a lot of classes, met a lot of people, and generally learned some ins and outs of the way things work around here. Now, I’d like to use this column as a chance to put all of those experiences to good use, whether that means sharing basic tips on class selection (Orgo: no; Positive Psych: yes) or letting you know the best way to cope with the roach colony in your shower (just suck it up, they’re here to stay).

Above all, I hope that this column will be entertaining and informative, and I encourage you to write in with whatever questions you have, mundane or bizarre. I’ve got 1,000 words every Monday in this fine paper, and believe me, I’ll need help each and every week, so ask away. Ask me how to pass your classes; ask me whether that cute jerk is worth your time. Ask me which of the wines that C’est Bon offers is the least likely to embarrass you on a romantic picnic for two. Ask me which professors I think have hairpieces. Ask me about the benefits of term life insurance. I’ll admit that I won’t have the answers to everything, but I do promise to make every effort to address your concerns during my time in this position.

With that said, I look forward to reading your emails and seeking out some answers. I hope that I can steer you in the right direction, whether it be toward the Arrow Street Creperie—try the Hippie—or the registrar. So, here’s to a semester of advice. And remember, your mom was right: eat your vegetables, take your vitamins, and always, always wear clean underwear. You never know what the day might bring.

Dear Sara,

After three years of terrible Harvard housing, I finally have a sweet room in a great location. There’s only one problem: my sophomore neighbors. Every night this week, they’ve thrown loud parties, usually not starting until 1 or 2am. I’m not sure how to handle this—it’s going to be a stressful year for me, and I just want to live in peace and quiet. Help!

—Party Pooper in Paradise

Man, do I ever hear you; senior year is about as stressful as it gets. However, as tempting as it may be to plaster the offenders’ door with house transfer forms or haul out that SuperSoaker you’ve been saving for a special occasion, it’s important to handle housing situations delicately. After all, you’ll be living next to the little party animals all year, and they tend to bite when provoked.

If you avoid direct confrontation like your Moral Reasoning TF, try sending a polite but pointed e-mail first. A general e-mail directed to your entire entryway or floor will avoid coming across as a personal attack; just mention that the noise has been an issue and you require relative quiet for your thesis/sanity/orgy/whatever. A simple request for quiet should be effective, since most people realize that this is Harvard and not State U. At best, you’ll get an apology and things will quiet down, at worst you’ll be ignored, and the noise will continue. If the latter is the case, feel free to conclude (loudly) that all sophomore boys are tools, before moving on to phase two: Operation Whine To Your Tutor.

Involving your tutor will solve the problem in most cases, especially if he or she has been disturbed by the partying as well. Official quiet hours begin after 11pm on weeknights and 2am on weekends, and tutors are responsible for enforcing these rules—they’ll often follow up with senior staff in the house if they can’t resolve the issue themselves. Tutors are generally approachable and chill, and most are quite eager to be acknowledged by you in the dining hall. Don’t worry about annoying them with your requests; there’s a reason they’re getting free room and board. Make them earn those Broccoli Chz Chx Breasts.

If your tutor is unresponsive, and you’re willing to endure nine months of icy stares at study breaks, give HUPD a call. They’re used to fielding noise complaints and will likely be more intimidating than a lowly tutor (read: they’re armed). Keep in mind that this should be a last resort tactic, and it should only be used when the noise is truly disruptive and occurring after quiet hours. Call the cops on someone you can hear snoring through a fire door, and you deserve that “Resident Psycho” moniker that you’ll be stuck with for the rest of the year.

Finally, if the fine officers of HUPD don’t do the trick, go to the mattresses and call the Cambridge police. Clearly, you’re dealing with more than the Harvard disciplinary infrastructure is equipped to handle. You’ll have some fun pretending to be a crotchety Cantabrigian, and even more fun hearing about your neighbors’ underage drinking citations through your paper-thin walls. Hey, they asked for it.

Best of luck,


—“Dear Sara” will run on Mondays this semester. Send letters to Letters will be published anonymously.