Blackout Disrupts Midterm Studying, Strands Some in Elevators

Harvard Yard Blackout
Freshmen gather to sing and play guitar on the steps of University Hall, cheering as the power returned to Harvard Yard a split second before the photo was taken. The power outage affected Harvard Yard and the River Houses late Thursday night into Friday morning.

A blackout darkened most of Harvard’s River Houses and freshman dorms for about an hour Thursday night and into Friday morning, disrupting students cramming for midterms and stranding some in elevators across campus.

A transformer located at 8110 Memorial Drive malfunctioned, causing the outage, according to the Cambridge Fire Department. The outage lasted from around 11:45 p.m. Thursday to 1 a.m. Friday.

An Energy and Facilities Operations Center operator confirmed that technicians had been dispatched to help students trapped in dorm elevators in Mather House and Thayer Hall.

Adams House Faculty Dean Sean Palfrey ’67 stood with a flashlight outside Adams amid the darkness that engulfed Plympton St. He said Harvard has experienced “multiple different kinds of outages” in past years, including one a few months ago.


“The main control centers just blow out an entire section of Harvard,” Palfrey said.

The outage caused inconveniences for many students, some of whom were doing homework. Shannon S. Lytle ’17, an Adams resident, was in the middle of a p-set when the power went out.

“It was annoying more than anything because I was trying to get my work done, and my laptop was close to dying,” Lytle said.

Some students were also studying for midterm examinations scheduled for Friday, including in Molecular and Cellular Biology 60: “Cellular Biology and Molecular Medicine,” Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology 10: “Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology,” Organismic and Evolutionary Biology 10: “Foundations of Biological Diversity,” and Math 122: “Algebra I: Theory of Groups and Vector Spaces.”

When asked how she was studying for her Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology 10: “Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology” midterm in the blackout, Kristen Fang ’19 said: “I’m not.”

A crowd of students gathered in the Starbucks near the Harvard Square T stop to continue studying, according to Nico Tuccillo ’19, who was studying there for his midterm in Molecular and Cellular Biology 60: “Cellular Biology and Molecular Medicine.”

Nina Vendhan ’19 had other concerns.

“I’m worried about my food in my mini-fridge,” she said.

Some Houses, or entryways within Houses, still had power. Lethu A. Ntshinga ’18 said Leverett’s McKinlock Hall, where she lives, had electricity even though the House’s towers were dark.

“It’s lit, as usual,” Ntshinga said.

Houses in the Radcliffe Quadrangle were not affected by the blackout.

After the Houses went dark, Pforzheimer House committee co-chair Muhammed Ors ’17 published a Facebook post poking fun at undergraduates housed along the Charles River.

“Bet all you river kids, and especially those who transferred to the river, wish you got quadded now,” Ors wrote.

Despite his p-set challenges, Lytle said the blackout was exciting.

“I mean it’s kind of fun, too,” he said. “It puts everybody in a different kind of emergency state of panic.”

—Staff writer Brandon J. Dixon can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BrandonJoDixon.

—Staff writer Kenton K. Shimozaki can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @KentonShimozaki.

—Staff writer Leah S. Yared can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Leah_Yared.

—Staff writer Tanya F. Devani contributed to the reporting of this story.


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