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Come to Dinner

It’s 3 a.m. on Housing Day 2017, and there’s nothing left to do. The shirts are sorted and stacked in the closet. The welcome letters are printed, and the video has been released to the world. Everyone with any semblance of responsibility for the coming day knows where they need to be and when they need to be there. I text a previous Cabot House Committee co-chair, Rebecca J. Ramos ’17, who is also still awake because Becca is always awake, and ask what else I should do. Go to bed, she tells me, there’s nothing left you can do.

The reality of organizing Housing Day as a Quad HoCo co-chair is that it is inherently self-defeating. No matter what we do, the lengths to which we go, or the expenses we don’t spare, we know that we will still walk into a room with many crestfallen faces. Every year, there are tears. We talk about our "n+1" housing, the scope of our House community, and how much we love our House, but many freshmen still wish that we weren’t the ones to storm their room.

I can’t really blame them for falling victim to Housing Day’s greatest narrative. How many people, from the first day of school, tell freshmen that there is no fate worse than getting “quadded”? Whether they “River Ran” or burned miniature boats on the Charles, plenty of freshmen make a greater effort to avoid the Radcliffe Quadrangle than they do to get an A in Expos. As much as we boast about our excellent housing, vibrant house life, regular (and popular) parties, and the regularity of the Quad shuttle, it is difficult to reverse a perspective fed to freshmen from as early as Opening Days, their First-Year Outdoor Program trip, or even Visitas. Unsurprisingly, many freshmen who have been cautioned against being Quadded never get over it when they do.

So, some leave. For me, the fifth Monday of the spring semester is not just the day that add-drop officially ends. It’s the day that inter-House transfer decisions come out: It’s the day that some of my friends announce that they are leaving. As a HoCo co-chair, every outgoing transfer feels a bit like a personal indictment of the job I’ve been doing. Though I feel like I’ve failed the people who leave, the reality is most of those who leave us never gave us a chance. They didn’t try to engage in the community that we work so hard to build. People who transfer out look at what they don’t have around them, care about where they are not. They never look at what we do have, and they don’t care about what the House actually is.

It is important to remember that for every Quadling who leaves us, there are many others who choose to stay. By and large, those Cabotians who were open-minded enough to give us a chance stay until senior year, and many actively work to improve House life. A former roommate of a group that transferred to Quincy chose to stay in Cabot last spring and has since joined the House Committee. Some find their place at Cabot Café, in the Third Space Art Studio, in the House’s theater program, or amongst our intramural teams. Though many enter the Quad with trepidation, I know that the vast majority of those who give the Quad a chance will stay and graduate satisfied with their House—contrary to what a freshman might be told to believe.

Every year on Housing Day, Stephanie Khurana, one of the Cabot Faculty Deans, addresses the assembled students in our packed dining hall. She tells them that all we in Cabot ask is that they give us a chance. Though she does not state it explicitly, Khurana (not Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, who by this time has already delivered the mission of the College) knows what anyone who storms dorms on Housing Day wearing a Quad t-shirt knows: many of the freshmen in the room wish they were in a different dining hall, one about a mile farther south and with a view of Boston. Some of those new Cabotians hear her message, but some will have elected not even to make the short trip to the Quad for dinner to hear her say it in the first place. Less than half a day after being housed, some freshmen will have already written off the Quad. For the roughly 25 percent of the Class of 2021 that will be lucky enough to be visited by polar bears, trees, or codfish on Housing Day this year, I can only ask of you one thing: come to dinner. Give us a chance, and I can promise you that you’ll want to stay. For the rest, come visit. We’re just 0.7 miles away.

Jack W. Deschler ’19, a Cabot House Committee Co-Chair, is a Computer Science and Government concentrator in Cabot House.

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