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Op Eds

​Housing Day: A Time for Celebration

By Rachel E. Huebner, Crimson Staff Writer

On Thursday morning, Harvard will be celebrating its very own holiday: Housing Day.

Freshmen will eagerly wait in their dorms as upperclassmen storm the yard, dancing and screaming, sounding horns and striking gongs.

I still clearly remember the anticipation I felt before my first Housing Day last year, a day that many promised would be the best of my college career. But unfortunately, I spent the days before Housing Day anticipating something else that would be happening on that Thursday: a history midterm.

Because freshmen are assigned to their Houses immediately before Spring Break, a midway point in the semester, many professors schedule exams that coincide with Housing Day. And this is not out of malicious intent: Some faculty members are unaware of what this Harvard holiday even is. Still, Housing Day examinations preclude a large number of students from fully partaking in the day’s and preceding night’s festivities. They force freshmen to spend hours vacillating among a number of mediocre options: waking up at 6 a.m. to study, barricading themselves in their blockmates’ bedrooms to skim review sheets a final time, or not participating in the celebrations of Housing Day at all.

It is time for the administration to address the problem of exams on Housing Day by implementing a policy that allows students to fully experience the excitement of Housing Day without being forced to think about the work they should or need to be doing. The administration should ban Housing Day exams.

Though the Harvard College website itself advertises Housing Day as “one of the most exciting and festive days of the year,” what it fails to mention is that the administration has seemingly taken no steps to ensure that students can actually enjoy these festivities. More than a year after former Undergraduate Council President Ava Nasrollahzadeh ’16 and Vice President Dhruv P. Goyal ’16 included abolishing exams on Housing Day in their campaign platform, nothing has changed.

Harvard is a stressful environment. It is often impossible to go through a week without feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of pages of reading, response papers, and problem sets to finish. As a result, there are few days when students feel like they attend a somewhat normal school—one where your close friend doesn’t need to pencil you into her schedule for a 45-minute lunch date, a school where students are able to spend 24 consecutive hours not doing school work without feeling guilty about it.

Two days every year make me feel like I’m attending a college where work isn’t constantly on everyone’s mind: Harvard-Yale game day (and weekend) and Housing Day. The solution for relieving the stress of a Monday midterm during Harvard-Yale weekend is relatively simple: Prohibit professors from giving exams the Monday after the big game. If students did not have Monday exams after Harvard-Yale weekend to worry about, they would be able to take advantage of the festivities of the weekend stress-free. Maybe they could even take Sunday off to celebrate the weekend with friends.

Likewise, Harvard should institute a midterm ban on Housing Day. If this is an infeasible option—though it is difficult to imagine why professors could not be barred from giving midterms the day before Spring Break—there are alternative options the College could explore. For instance, Housing Day could be moved to a different day, perhaps the Saturday after Spring Break. If this plan proves problematic, Housing Day could take place after the conclusion of classes.

Two years ago, Dean Rakesh Khurana described Housing Day as “one of those pure joy days.” He continued: “And I think the students deserve a couple of crazy days during the year.” While I do not doubt his words, it is hard to experience a day of “pure joy” when 25 percent of your grade is being determined by a midterm.

Harvard—let us have our day of fun.


Rachel E. Huebner ’18, a Crimson editorial writer, is a psychology concentrator in Pforzheimer House.

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