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Op Eds

Unlocking Blocking

By Arianna Camacho

A few weeks ago, while talking with my academic adviser, I learned that many freshmen advisers had recently attended a meeting to discuss administrative concerns with the blocking process. One major concern was the excess of blocking misconceptions that arises every year, so advisers were urged to clarify misunderstandings with their advisees. However, for many freshmen, the past weeks have nevertheless been characterized by confusion and speculation, spurred on by a lack of information from the administration.

Blocking, despite being a signature (and, in my opinion, invaluable) aspect of the Harvard experience, is inherently prone to tension—people have multiple groups of friends, and narrowing them down to eight or so people can be challenging and stressful. However, the process becomes even more complicated when there is contradictory information circulating about. I have encountered groups that are banking on gender-neutral housing. I have also talked to many people who think that blocking is equivalent to rooming (not true either). I even know people who are not linking because they think that it means they will be assigned to the Quad (clearly false). How are we supposed to make the right decisions when we are not even sure of how it all works?

The truth is that the vast majority of our information on blocking comes from our peers, many of whom are also freshman. During the first weeks of the semester, when blocking was discussed at practically every meal, I saw a widespread case of blind leading the blind. Lacking any formal communication from the administration regarding the specifics of the blocking process, many anxious freshmen spread misinformation, making others unsure of what type of group would be best for them. Is there any correlation between small groups and single rooms? Between big groups and the Quad? Are co-ed groups guaranteed gender-neutral housing? Will blockmates of the same gender be suite mates? Is there an alternative option to Houses? These are the types of questions that circulated around Annenberg Hall, many times answered by wild guesses of uninformed freshmen.

Now, attempts have been made to quell freshmen anxieties. In the past couple weeks all freshmen entryways have hosted a study break devoted to the blocking process, but, for a couple of reasons, this attempt has not been enough. First, many students can’t attend study breaks due to extracurricular commitments. Second, this attempt came very late in the process, when many freshmen had already formed groups and had already internalized much of the misinformation that had circulated, uncorrected, for many weeks. Concrete information on the process could have been of great help if it had been disseminated earlier and to everyone in the freshmen class.

I find it odd that even though the administration knows that there are misunderstandings about blocking among the freshmen—to a point, according to my advisor, where it even held an advisor meeting that addressed them—neither the Freshmen Dean’s Office nor the Office of Student Life sent out an email to the freshmen to clarify the process. The deadline to enter the lottery is this Wednesday, but not a single official email regarding the blocking process appeared in my inbox. Many freshmen sorted out questions by seeking the help of proctors, academic advisers and Peer Advising Fellows, but others, lacking information from one centralized source, simply built their groups on misconceptions.

Like most of my peers, I cannot wait for housing day. I also appreciate that Harvard gives us the opportunity to choose who will live with us the rest of our college years. But if Harvard wants to give us the responsibility of deciding who we will spend the rest of college with, it should also give us the information needed to make a well-informed decision.

 Arianna Camacho '18, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Matthews Hall.

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