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Harvard Freshmen Disappointed Over Delay in Housing Assignments

Harvard College's announcement of the postponement of Housing Day, an annual Harvard tradition, has left first-year students angry and uncertain of when they will receive House assignments.
Harvard College's announcement of the postponement of Housing Day, an annual Harvard tradition, has left first-year students angry and uncertain of when they will receive House assignments. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Camille G. Caldera and Jasper G. Goodman, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard freshmen expressed disappointment and frustration Thursday after their upperclassman housing assignments were delayed due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Housing Day — a spirited annual event during which upperclassmen storm Harvard Yard to tell freshmen where they will be living for the following six semesters — takes place each March. Faculty of Arts and Sciences Registrar Michael P. Burke announced Monday that the College would postpone Housing Day, which was originally slated to happen Thursday. Burke did not say when students would receive notices, leading some freshmen to expect them Thursday.

“It’s obviously super disappointing,” Roderick P. Emley ’23 said. “This is just a huge tradition at Harvard, and it feels like we’ve been robbed of it.”

In an emailed statement, College spokesperson Rachael Dane acknowledged the “disappointment” students felt on campus because of the cancellation.

“We know the disappointment and frustration that our First Year students, HoCo Chairs and HoCo members, and other students are feeling over the cancellation of Housing Day,” Dane wrote.

Freshmen also lamented the loss of other Harvard housing traditions. On the eve of Housing Day, many freshmen take part in River Run, a traditional evening activity during which students take shots at each of Harvard’s nine river houses in a superstitious bid to avoid being assigned to a house in the Radcliffe Quadrangle just under a mile from Harvard Yard.

“The main word that sums up my housing day experience is disappointment, especially because I grinded hard on River Run,” Lucas P. Pao ’23 said.

A number of students said that, even without the evening and morning festivities, they wished the Dean of Students Office sent housing assignments via email Thursday, the scheduled date.

“An email from housing day would’ve just made my day,” Pao said.

Others said they feared learning that they had been placed in a house in the Radcliffe Quadrangle via email.

Andrew G. Van Camp ’23 said he thought an emailed assignment would dampen his experience, “especially if [he gets] quadded,” he said.

“I’d be so sad if I got [Pforzheimer] via email,” Justin Chan ’23 said. “That’s a hot take right there.”

Dane wrote that the Dean of Students Office “will seek to notify students in the near future of their housing assignments.”

Dane wrote the DSO and House Committees are “seeking to brainstorm” a variety of “ways to bring that excitement and energy” to the experience of finding out their houses.

“We will find a way to celebrate the strength of our communities and welcome its newest members,” Dane wrote.

Despite the growing number of coronavirus cases in Massachusetts, Van Camp questioned the need to call off Housing Day.

“Annenberg is still open, but Housing Day isn’t happening? It feels like infection could happen here just as easily,” he said, gesturing to the dining hall full of hundreds of students.

Other freshmen, though, said they understood the decision.

“I’m definitely upset. It’s a very big part of freshman year: the rituals, the tradition. I was very much looking forward to it,” Benjamin A. Landau ’23 said. “That said, given the circumstances, in the world right now and in the community right now, I understand the precautions they’re taking and I respect the decision the administration has made.”

Despite the changes, Emley said the “expectation” of Housing Day still led to revelry among freshmen on Wednesday and Thursday.

“People still kind of filled that void by doing things, just without the tradition of Housing Day,” he said. “People still had parties, people still drank, but there wasn’t the celebratory aspect of that because we still don’t know what house we have.”

—Staff writer Camille G. Caldera can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Camille_Caldera.

—Staff writer Jasper G. Goodman can be reached as Follow him on Twitter @Jasper_Goodman.

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