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College Subcommittee Considers Mimicking Housing at Yale

A Harvard committee floated a proposal to make the College's House system more like Yale's, wheree freshmen are assigned to a House before they arrive on campus.
A Harvard committee floated a proposal to make the College's House system more like Yale's, wheree freshmen are assigned to a House before they arrive on campus. By Nathan A. Cummings
By Derek G. Xiao, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: February 17, 2017 at 5:40 p.m.

A College subcommittee is soliciting feedback on a proposal to replace Harvard’s current housing model with one more similar to Yale’s, in which students do not choose with whom they enter a House.

The potential switch comes in the midst of an administrative effort to “re-center” social life in the Houses. Though still in an exploratory stage, the Residential Subcommittee of the College-wide group on inclusion and belonging has sought student opinions on the potential move from undergraduate Peer Advising Fellows at two town hall style events.

Brooks B. Lambert-Sluder ’05, who works at the Advising Programs Office and directs the PAF program, said PAFs were chosen by the subcommittee—on which Lambert-Sluder is a “guest”—to provide the initial feedback because “PAFs are really well positioned through their work advising first-year students and building communities in entryways and thinking about the transition from first year to second year, to reflect seriously about this.”

PAFs are assigned in groups to freshman entryways and help advise first-year students on academic and extracurricular matters.

In an email to PAFs before the event, Lambert-Sluder wrote that the town hall would discuss “one particular proposal to strengthen” connections between freshmen and upperclassmen Houses. Lambert-Sluder also circulated two Crimson articles—one detailing previous instances in which the administration considered a switch to Yale’s model, and another urging the adoption of a model closer to Yale’s.

In an interview Tuesday, however, Lambert-Sluder stressed that the possibility of changing Harvard’s current Housing system is “so preliminary that there’s not even a recommendation—this is well before any recommendation stage.”

“I’ve been at Harvard for a long time, and this idea comes up every generation or one-and-a-half generations of College students,” he said. “The College is always trying to figure out if we’re doing things the right way.”

Indeed, the College has often discussed such a switch in recent years.

In a spring 2015 meeting, College administrators and leaders of Harvard’s final clubs discussed the Yale model under “potential College administration-led social initiatives.”

The ideas follow those presented in a 2009 report titled “Report on Harvard House Renewal,” which wrote that a subcommittee discussed a move to Yale’s model. Reports in 2001 and 2004 also considered such a switch.

Lambert-Sluder said that PAFs at the two meetings arrived at no clear consensus about the proposed switch.

“This is quite a broad brush—and I don’t want to claim to represent the 20 or so opinions that were shared specifically—but in general ‘mixed’ is a fair word for [the PAFs’ reactions],” he said. “I think PAFs thought critically and made really constructive suggestions about strengths and weakness of this particular proposal.”

Lambert-Sluder said there would likely be opportunity for more general student feedback on such a proposal “if and when” it progresses.

—Staff writer Derek G. Xiao can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @derekgxiao.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: February 17, 2017

A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated that a University committee on diversity and inclusion was considering changing Harvard's housing model. In fact, it is a College committee.

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