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The infamous period of high stress characteristic of “blocking” came to a close Tuesday morning as the application deadline for freshmen seeking upperclassman Housing passed.
“If Harvard had a soap opera, it would be about blocking,” said Ibrahim M. Syed ’19. “You find out who your real friends are when you decide who you’re going to block with, because you think you’ll be friends with someone, and two days before Housing day they’ll drop you like a hot potato.”
Every year, freshmen coalesce into groups of one to eight total students, forming a blocking group. Shortly before spring break, on a day of fanfare and celebration, each blocking group is randomly assigned an upperclassman House.
Brooks B. Lambert-Sluder ’05, assistant director of Advising Programs and proctor in Apley Court, said that communication between friends often becomes strained when forming blocking groups.
“It is hard to tell someone that you like and that you care about a lot that you don’t want to live with them next year, or to get that bad news from someone,” Brooks said.
Lispeth J. Tibbits-Nutt, a proctor in Holworthy, said some students become particularly stressed about blocking because they think they are solidifying their Harvard friend group for life.
“I think people have these really romantic notions in their heads that the blocking group is all these friends they’re going to have until they’re 40,” Tibbits-Nutt said. “It’s this Friends sitcom scenario, where they’re going to be friends forever and they’re going to sit on couches and play guitar and grow old and raise their children together.”
Kruti B. Vora ’17, a peer advising fellow in Wigglesworth, said she has found that freshmen often have high expectations around finding the perfect blocking group and worry about potential separation from their friends.
“I think that it’s super important to reaffirm that blocking is not the end-all be-all,” Vora said. “At the end of the day, you all go to Harvard, you all live on the same campus. Your blockmates will be in the same House with you, but they’re not by any means your only friends around campus.”
PAFs and proctors play a large role in helping freshmen through the blocking process. All freshman entryways held a study break about blocking a few weeks ago, and will hold another one about housing next week, Vora said.
“I think that our role as PAFs is to try and normalize everything that could possibly happen within blocking and let them know that no matter what situation they end up in, it’s okay,” she added.
The Freshman Dean’s Office often provides resources to help freshmen through blocking, including the “Making a House into a Home: Drama-Free Blocking” seminar offered last month. Tibbits-Nutt said programs like this are beneficial for students who attend, but the opt-in nature could render them less effective.
“Programming is not always the solution,” Tibbits-Nutt said. “It’s the most straightforward answer, to offer more things, but you still have to get students to come. And at the end of the day, most of them are not going to.”
For Tibbits-Nutt, a better solution would be to teach students more about general interpersonal social skills.
—Staff writer Menaka V. Narayanan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mnarayanan97.
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