I kept hearing whispers and rumblings about the new Lowell renovations, and I became increasingly concerned for all of my fellow students awaiting the completion of their House this August. Even though there was direct evidence to the contrary, people kept telling me that the new Lowellian floor plan would consist only of hallway doubles and singles, doing away with the common room in an attempt to socially engineer the House. The rumor mill, however, was wrong and the truth is quite far from it.
Seventy-two percent of the rooms in Lowell will be suites, with the rest being hallway singles. The hallway double is to be eradicated entirely, and as a one-time inhabitant, I would say “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”
I love common rooms. It is a shared space where friends can come together to socialize. It is a point of centrality that serves as the default location for roommates to be. I consider the common room to be one of the best aspects of my college experience so far.
As a freshman, I was dropped into a six-man suite in Canaday Hall. My roommates came from different places. We had a Texan, a Floridian, two New Yorkers, a Bostonian, and a Pole. But it only took a couple days for us to transcend those identities and become Canaday F-12ers above all else.
Our common room was spectacularly unimpressive. I can confidently claim that every common room I went to in a different dorm easily had more space per person that ours. But we made it work; desks doubled as lounge chairs and the floor was a comfy couch. Canaday is a particularly ugly dorm, but we crammed flags, lights, and posters onto every inch of the walls. It was a project that we could all work together on, and we took great pride in the final product.
One evening during Opening Days, in which we were all lounging in our room and our common room served as a revolving door of characters that we told to stop by at some point during the night. I remember this night as one of my favorites at Harvard because I met so many great new people and bonded with my roommates. In fact, that night, I met one of my closest friends and our room’s stowaway seventh man. Our common room was instrumental to that evening.
The seven of us all blocked together and were placed into Leverett House. Now, as sophomores, the rooming situation is a bit different. We had to separate because the number seven was incompatible with Leverett sophomore housing. One group of four is without a common room in one building, and the other three have a common room in another. Obviously the distance is an obstacle, but probably not the main one. The key difference is that we lack a focal point. Before, we all defaulted to our common room. If you had some free time, you went to the common room. This is no longer the case and the group dynamic has suffered.
Last semester, I lived in a hallway double and I was much more isolated, and not just simply because there were fewer people in the room. My roommate and I were stranded on a desert island. Since there was no common space among us designated for socializing, it was much more difficult to spend time with my group of friends. We have a cluster common room down the hallway for the whole floor, but it is a waste of space.
This experience, the contrast from last year to this one, is why I place such a high premium on the common room. I believe it was central to my freshman experience in the best way. Harvard advertises itself as a place for transformative experiences, and nothing can be more transformative than the strong bonds we form with others in our time. Nothing forges a group of friends like a common room.
Daniel L. Aklog ’21, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Social Studies concentrator in Leverett House.