College Committee Studying Housing System Will Make Recommendations to Khurana

Silliman College
Silliman College is one of Yale's undergraduate residential colleges. A Harvard task force is looking into proposals to make the College's housing model more similar to Yale's.
A College subcommittee considering whether to eliminate the current blocking process for upperclassmen housing assignment will share recommendations with Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana as soon as April.

The residential subcommittee is exploring several possible alternatives to Harvard’s current Housing system, which randomly places self-selected blocking groups of rising sophomores into the 12 Houses. The committee’s leading proposal would instead randomly assign each freshman entryway to one of the 12 Houses in a model almost identical to Yale's.

Under the proposal, freshmen would live in the same House as other members of their entryway—30 or so first-year Harvard students who share areas of the same dorm. If a student wants to opt out of their entryway’s House assignment, they would have the option to join a random lottery, according to Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67, who leads the residential subcommittee.

“You wouldn’t really be blocking as you know it now,” Dingman said. “You’d have a chance—because there are other entryways from across the Yard also assigned to that House—to pick people to room with from your current entryway or the other ones.”

Harvard v. Yale Housing
At Yale, students are sorted into residential college—like Harvard's Houses—before they arrive on campus.

The subcommittee is a segment of a broader College committee studying “inclusion and belonging.” Khurana tapped Jack C. Megan, director of Harvard’s Office for the Arts, to help lead the committee, which is studying how to better incorporate undergraduates from a variety of backgrounds into the College. A separate University-wide task force is also working to study diversity on campus.


Dingman said revising the housing assignment system could help welcome freshmen students into upperclassmen Houses and “re-center social life” in on-campus residences.

“With all the issues around the single-gender social organizations, there’s been an effort to try to bring back some of the entertainment and bonding experiences into the Houses,” Dingman said.

Dingman added that the current system is imperfect.

“We have heard from the Houses that sophomores often times feel a whole new beginning,” he said. “When they form blocking groups that are somewhat homogeneous, they don’t feel much inclination to reach out and get to know their new surroundings and the people in their class in the House.”

The subcommittee has solicited feedback on the preliminary proposal from undergraduate Peer Advising Fellows, who had “mixed” reactions, according to Brooks B. Lambert-Sluder ’05, assistant director of College advising programs.

Dingman said House Faculty Deans, resident deans, and members of the Undergraduate Council have also weighed in on the proposal.

Megan said that any change to the Housing model would be more complicated. He said any change would involve a “multi-year process.”

“The short term goal for all of us is to give some directional ideas to the Dean and then see which of these we want to explore,” Megan said.

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

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


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