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Impending Midterms Dampen Housing Day Festivities

Housing Day Tradition
Keeping with tradition, upperclassmen students gather in front of the John Harvard statue early Thursday morning.
On Housing Day eve, freshman Bill W. Zhang ’21 faced a predicament. Just over the horizon peeked the excitement of Housing Day, when Zhang and over a thousand of his fellow classmates would discover their new home for the next three years of college.

But Zhang also had a exam at 10 a.m. for Economics 1011b: Intermediate Macroeconomics.

“I’m planning on pulling an all-nighter tonight with my blockmates, and then 8:30 tomorrow morning figure out where I’m going for the rest of time at Harvard,” Zhang said Wednesday evening. “Then I’ll go take the midterm at 10:00 a.m., and then afterwards forget it happened and go have fun in my upperclassman House, have lunch, and whatnot like every other student.”

Zhang’s plight is not unique. Across campus on Thursday, a handful of students grappled with balancing the burden of midterm exams with the revelry and cherished tradition of upperclassmen storming the Yard and revealing housing decisions to underclassmen.

Araceli Marcial ’21 struggled to manage the stress of her Applied Math 21b midterm and the anticipation of finding out her House assignment.

“I didn’t sleep much last night,” Marcial said. “I didn’t feel like waking up, but I had to because of all the loud noise. I guess also just that today I was feeling the anticipation of Housing Day, but also anxiety about my test, so it was both things.”

Lucas Lee ’21 had two midterms on Housing Day, Economics 1011b at 10 a.m. and Statistics 123 at 2:30 p.m. Lee ended up ordering a bagged lunch for between tests. He missed the midday festivities in Annenberg dining hall, where representatives of each House enthusiastically welcome incoming sophomores by cheering and handing out House-themed paraphernalia.

“It has definitely negatively affected my Housing Day experience. I only went to the dorm for ten minutes, got the letter, and then left,” he said.

Lee conceded, though, that his classes are not primarily composed of freshman and that sometimes exams before spring break are necessary because of the structure of the syllabus.

“For Stat 123, Stat 111 is on Tuesday, and a lot of people take the two courses at the same time, so it’d either be two Stat exams for most Stats concentrators on Tuesday or divide them out, and most of these are upperclassmen,” Lee said. “So I think it was the best choice given everything else.”

Traditionally, Housing Day is held on the Thursday before spring break, which frequently coincides with peak midterm season.

In the past, Undergraduate Council members have strongly advocated against midterms on Housing Day.

In an interview Thursday, Sruthi Palaniappan ’20, chair of the UC’s Education Committee, said that though the Council has not taken an official stance on the issue this year, it hopes to find ways for students to enjoy college traditions.

Palaniappan said a possible solution might involve moving Housing Day to an earlier week so it does not conflict with midterms scheduled in the lead-up to spring break.

“Housing Day is always regarded as being one of the events that brings together the entire Harvard community, and it allows all students to take part and enjoy the company of upperclassmen and getting together and being able to get to know each other,” Palaniappan said.

“It’s one of the most exciting moments, being able to find out what House you’re in and meet the members of that community and be welcome into their House,” she added. “I think for our community it’s really important that we’re able to both uphold the importance of academics but also allow people to have an enriching social experience and community aspect while they’re at Harvard.”

In the meantime, students like Zhang have found solidarity in their shared set of unfortunate circumstances.

“Basically in the past few days, it’s just been people dying studying for this, so I think we have a common attitude that we’re not going to survive and that’s okay,” Zhang said. “Acceptance is very important in this instance, but we’re all in it together, so that’s the important thing.”

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