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This year, instead of receiving live and spirited knocks on their doors, members of Harvard’s freshman class clicked into Zoom rooms to discover where they would be living for the next three years. Inevitably, this marked the second year of an unceremoniously remote and distanced approach to Harvard’s Housing Day; a second class of freshmen unable to wholeheartedly immerse themselves in what is usually one of the most memorable and festive days of the Harvard College experience.
Admittedly and regrettably, the most cherished happenings of the typical Housing Day experience have, on many levels, become bygone within the virtual world. Housing Day has long existed as a frenzied and buzzing live affair — gushing with in-person “dorm-storming” activities and socials that over eagerly welcomed freshmen into each house. To that end, entering a Zoom room is, even for the most optimistic of students, an anticlimactic contrast.
This sense of loss was widely felt, with students across backgrounds and classes left isolated on this year’s iteration of Housing Day. Parades of freshmen were left with faraway feelings, unenthused by the prospect of entering a webinar alone. Some students were stuck in their digital classrooms, unable — amidst the tangled scheduling difficulties of the online world — to attend their House reveals at all. And crowds filled with even the most spirited upperclassmen were prone to leaving the digital festivities on a markedly more somber note than that with which they had entered — feeling the absence of their friends and peers on leave, who were estranged from the day’s events.
And yet, it would be misguided to overlook that this year’s virtual Housing Day, in its own distinctive way, carried its own beauty.
For many freshmen, officially joining a House was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise abnormal and isolated year, marked by unmatched levels of distance from the Harvard world. Freshmen were able to partake in longstanding Harvard traditions — choruses of relieved freshmen, like those who came before them, celebrated their assignments into much-desired River Houses; others mourned their new status as residents of the not-actually-that-far Radcliffe Quadrangle. Most importantly, across differences in location, circumstance, and momentary grief or relief, all freshmen were able to feel out, for the first time, their place within a time-tested Harvard ecosystem, embodying the celebrations and lamentations of those before them.
Beyond that, subtle but enthusiastic pockets of community glistened through. Some seasoned house members graced this year’s Zoom reveals with frenzied screams and zealous voices, eager to welcome freshmen into their new communities even from a distance. Others opened up their schedules to give impromptu virtual tours of the houses to curious and eager-eyed freshmen, creating remote opportunities for exploration, immersion, and care. And still, others crafted Housing Day videos that built energy and excitement about House life, leaving all students — not just freshmen — more excited for the eventual return to ordinary campus life; to look ahead, and to celebrate the years of campus-wide vibrance that still await so many of us.
Such feelings of joy, comfort, and community simply could not have been forged without the concerted contributions of students on House Committees, who worked tirelessly to ensure that freshmen could have cherishable experiences within the constraints and limitations of the moment. The virtual events planned by each committee — animated by cheers, music, and rich information about House life — captured some semblance of normalcy within our pandemic-tainted college lives. They offered a preview for freshmen — and a reminder for all — about the vibrancy of campus life. Though certainly still strained, the celebrations left us all feeling warmed, brightened by hope for a return to campus, for our newest crop of House-bound students, and for the endurance of the Harvard traditions that we hold dear to us.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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