Roommates and Romans

Words of wisdom to bolster your blocking ballgame

Caesar's Blocking Group
Ariana Kam

Friends, roommates, entryways, lend me your ears. I come to bewail blocking, not to praise it.

Maybe the prospect of lumping together in pods of eight pals, pleased and prepared to spend the rest of their Harvard days together, lured many a pre-frosh into matriculation. Indeed, Harvard’s housing system offers freshmen the freedom to figure out their futures for themselves. But freedom means pressure, and pressure never cooks quite as high as during late February and early March, when blocking groups form and tension foments.

Some say blocking does not matter. They say that it cannot alter or destroy friendships, that it will not determine the course and caliber of your Harvard experience, that it does not define you forever and always. They lie. Just as Caesar cast his shadow over Rome till its fall, your choices in the coming weeks will leave an indelible mark on your life and soul.

Thankfully, there’s a bright side. Though such is not the case with most things that leave an indelible mark on your life and soul, the path you take during blocking period rests entirely within your control. But what exactly is a student to do? Caesar could not chart a safe course through the stormy seas of the ancient Roman forum. How can you expect to navigate the far pricklier politics that take place at Annenberg tables and on dorm room couches? To ensure you don’t end up stabbed 23 times in the neck, chest, and groin (or more realistically, no more than seven times in the back), listen closely to a few simple tips.

First, do not let them come to you. Unless you’re some kind of überschüler, a real stud whose charisma and (perhaps more importantly) connections just radiate Adams House, you shouldn’t wait for the huddled masses to approach you in supplication. By the time you realize you sit on a throne of sand, the kids you were counting on will have secured their own fortunes. Sorry, man, their group’s full. Uh-oh, now even your current roommate has ditched you for that guy C’est Bon never cards. Et tu, Brute?


On the other hand, don’t get too pushy. You might scare them away. Act as if you bestride the narrow world like a colossus—tell your potential blockmates exactly to whom you’ve granted the pleasure of your company for the next three years—and you’ll stretch your legs so wide you'll fall in an unintentional split. There’s a far more comfortable middle ground here, but can you find it? One false step, and you might have to resort to a “who-needs-a-blockmate” post in your Harvard University class Facebook group.

It makes perfect sense to worry ceaselessly about whether you will find any living companions at all. But some may fancy themselves desirable enough to guarantee at least one name will appear alongside their own on the online housing portal. These lucky (or cocky) freshmen have the luxury of scoping out the best of their peers with whom to share a Winthrop walkthrough. It’s as a delicate a call as picking a co-consul, and history instructs you not to go at it alone.

Do you choose your best friend? Not if a falling out would leave you with nowhere to go. How about a nice, quiet girl who would never vomit in your hamper? Too boring. A boy who somehow always makes it onto the Fly party list? Such men are dangerous—he’ll sexile you before you can say “ides of March” (or two dates prior, when the Housing Gods pass their judgment and students receive news far more serious than the warnings of any soothsayer).

Perhaps you should not fear. If you fail to find a group, you know that floating, a necessary end, will come when it will come. So just give up and focus on blackmailing the Office of Student Life to place you in prime real estate. After all, remember: The evil that men do lives by the River; the good is oft interred in the Quad.

Molly L. Roberts ’16, a Crimson editorial executive, is an English concentrator in Cabot House. Her column runs on alternate Fridays. Follow her on Twitter @mollylroberts.