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Harvard College to Discontinue ‘Linking’ for Blocking Groups in Housing Lottery

Harvard College to Discontinue ‘Linking’ for Blocking Groups in Housing Lottery

Blocking groups in Harvard's housing lottery will no longer be able to link with each other.
Blocking groups in Harvard's housing lottery will no longer be able to link with each other. By Laurinne Eugenio
By John N. Peña, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard College will no longer allow “linking,” a process that enabled groups of students to guarantee upperclassman housing in the same campus neighborhood, a spokesperson confirmed Tuesday.

Since 1995, Harvard has run a random lottery each spring to assign freshmen to the upperclassman Houses. Ahead of the lottery, students form blocking groups, whose members are guaranteed to live in the same House. These groups previously had the option to “link” with another group and be placed in nearby houses.

The change was first made public in a recent update to a 2016 blog post on the College’s website. Harvard spokesperson Jonathan Palumbo wrote in an emailed statement that the change was intended to create a “more fair and equitable” lottery system.

“This shift in policy is in response to recent increases in our population and as part of our desire to preserve the broader purpose of the random lottery assignment system while allowing students to continue to be housed within their Blocking Groups,” Palumbo wrote.

“Prior to implementation, the policy was reviewed by various stakeholders, including Faculty Deans and the Committee on Student Life,” he added.

According to Common Data Set numbers, Harvard’s undergraduate class sizes have remained roughly the same size since 2007, with approximately 1,660 enrolled freshmen per year.

This trend was interrupted during the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw a high number of students in the Class of 2024 defer their enrollment by a year, leading to an oversized Class of 2025. In 2022, The Crimson reported that some students in 11 of 12 Houses would be pushed into overflow housing because of capacity constraints posed by the large class.

House Renewal, which broke ground in 2011, cost more than $1 billion and aims to renovate and modernize all 12 undergraduate houses. According to Palumbo, the changes to the lottery were also related to the ongoing renewal project.

“This evaluative process incorporates an array of factors, such as housing modifications due to house renewals and the availability of accommodations year over year, for example,” Palumbo wrote.

Blocking groups will not be discontinued, Palumbo wrote in his statement.

The changes leave fewer options for students in different blocking groups to be housed close to each other. The four neighborhoods are River West, River East, River Central, and the often maligned Radcliffe Quadrangle, which is located roughly a mile from the other nine houses.

Harvard’s housing lottery has evolved since the controversial change to randomization in 1995. In 1999, the College reduced the maximum size of blocking groups from 16 to eight. Harvard first implemented linking in 2006, with 87 blocking groups taking advantage of the opportunity in its inaugural year.

Upperclassmen storm freshman dorms to share housing assignments on Housing Day, a festive annual celebration held in March for the Class of 2027.

—Staff writer John N. Peña can be reached at Follow him on X @john_pena7.

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