By Christine E Mansour

House Life Survey Part I: Housing Day and House Renewal

A recent Crimson survey indicates that students are overall satisfied with their on-campus living experiences, but perceive inequities between Harvard’s upperclassman Houses.
By R. Blake Paterson

This is Part I in a two-part series on The Crimson’s survey on College residential life. Part II will run on Monday.

The majority of students who responded to a recent Crimson survey—84 percent—say they are satisfied overall with their experiences living in their upperclassman Houses, but their experiences in those on-campus residences vary.

For example, while students in Cabot and Currier Houses—located in the Radcliffe Quad, farther away from Harvard Square—reported feeling slightly more satisfied with their living experiences than their peers on average, those respondents were much less excited when they learned of their housing assignments their freshman year.

According to the survey, 48 percent of respondents reported feeling very satisfied with their House, while 36 percent said they are somewhat satisfied. Eight percent reported feeling neutral, 5 percent somewhat satisfied, and 3 percent not at all satisfied.

Of all the Houses, respondents from Lowell House they were most satisfied (91 percent), followed by Adams, Quincy, Currier , and Cabot. Respondents from Winthrop House, meanwhile, reported the lowest overall rate of satisfaction, which still totaled 77 percent.

By Idrees M. Kahloon

Though all of Harvard’s 12 residential Houses—each home to between 350 and 500 upperclassmen— offer students dining, advising, and programming resources, each House varies in its character, traditions, and housing accommodations.

Harvard touts its House system as a cornerstone of student life, but students this year have criticized administrators for what they see as the pitfalls of on-campus social spaces. As students debate the quality of College social life and administrators look to increase the importance of the Houses in upperclassman student life, The Crimson conducted an anonymous survey of Harvard upperclassmen about House and student social life.

Conducted by The Crimson, the survey was emailed to College sophomores, juniors, and seniors on Oct. 25 and closed on Nov. 8, garnering responses from 1,128 students, just under a quarter of upperclassmen. The Crimson did not adjust the survey results for any possible selection bias.

The survey asked upperclassmen dozens of questions on topics ranging from their thoughts on Harvard’s ongoing House renewal project to their experiences on Housing Day, residential advising, and facilities. The results indicate that while students are overall satisfied, they also perceive inequities between Houses.

Housing Assignments

Just before spring break each year, blocking groups of freshmen receive random assignments to live in one of the College’s 12 Houses for the rest of their time as undergraduates. On festivities known as Housing Day, hundreds of enthusiastic upperclassmen don T-shirts promoting their Houses and storm the Yard, chanting and dancing as they deliver letters to their newest residents.

Overall, most survey respondents—64 percent—said they were excited when they learned what House they were placed in on Housing Day. Thirty-nine percent said they very excited and 25 percent somewhat excited; 15 percent of respondents felt neutral, while 12 percent were not very excited and 8 percent not at all excited. But between Houses, levels of excitement and outlook on Housing Day vary.

Renewing the Houses

As a part of Harvard’s roughly $1 billion House renewal project, parts or all of three Houses have undergone major renovations meant to rethink common spaces and entryways: Quincy’s Stone Hall, Leverett’s McKinlock Hall, and most recently all of Dunster House. Winthrop is slated to undergo construction starting next summer and Lowell House the year after.

But with a mission to revitalize House Life, some students have critiqued the renewal process so far for its changes to existing living arrangements, which move away from private spaces like in-suite bathrooms and toward more open common spaces.

—Staff writers David Freed and Idrees M. Kahloon contributed data analysis.

—Staff writer R. Blake Paterson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BlakePat95.

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