The Characters


A who’s who of Harvard College.

Like all bad sitcoms, your college years will feature a certain set of one-dimensional recurring characters. It’s good to get to know them early: these people will keep coming up in your conversations this year, whether you want them to or not. So, without further ado, who is who at Harvard? (Full disclosure: as a current Harvard student, I have met many of the people on this list.)

Drew Gilpin Faust: Drew Faust is the President of Harvard University. She is a woman, a historian, and her last name is the same as that of the soul-selling hero of the German legend most famously dramatized by Goethe. She most recently led the Radcliffe Institute. All of this has been commented-upon elsewhere. When you meet her at the freshman photo-op, smile and try to get her to say something meaningful to you. (Don’t bring dollar bills for her to sign!) If the performance of past presidents is any indication, this is the last you’ll hear from her until graduation.

Lena Chen: Like so many people in the sinful new America, Lena rocketed to a modicum of fame on the back of a sex blog. You can find out all you want about her from her blog ( – get it?), except whether that guy with whom she may or may not have hooked up a few months ago actually exists. Some of you freshmen may be bummed out by orifices and fluids. There’s a place for you to turn – the True Love Revolution, which was launched over the same summer as Sex and the Ivy. For the rest of us, bummed out by true love, there’s no better remedy for an atrophied social life than an evening spent in Lena’s heartwarming online company. (Beware, though: it’s usually less prurient than you’re hoping.)

Domna Antoniu: As most of you freshmen know, too many Harvard students begin their years in Cambridge with a severely inflated sense of self-worth. Thankfully, Harvard has two means by which to crush the overblown egos of freshmen: Expos and Domna. Domna is half mean grandma, half guardian demon, and all business. In spite of this, you’ll grow to love her: she’s tough but fair. But she won’t grow to love you if you keep forgetting your ID card.

Ryan Petersen: The President of the Undergraduate Council seems to be friendly, skinny, dreamy, and off-and-on stubbly. He and his infinitely charming vice-president, Matt Sundquist, truly care about whatever the UC does. In an indirect way, that means he cares about you.

Anonymous BoredatLamont Poster: “Anybody here?” “Hook up, 5th floor Lamont bathroom?” “I’m here.” “Hi.” “Any cute guys?” “Everyone at Harvard is so lonely.” [3 agrees, 2 disagrees] “I’m hungry.” “Hook up, Widener stacks?” “Does anybody use this anymore?” “I’ve been awake for 50 hours.” [6 agrees] “Are you a guy?” [2 agrees] “I love Lamont!!!” “Everyone at Harvard is so ugly.” [5 agrees, 1 disagree] “Hook up, Mass Hall stairwell?” [2 agrees] “I’m so tired.” [11 agrees] “Anybody here?”

Zhi Zhou: Probably the best jinghu-player in the Square, Zhi Zhou is a squealing one-string fixture of Cambridge street life. I’d like to say he’s there at all times, sawing away under snowdrifts, but he actually disappears mysteriously for months at a time; thankfully, he announces his return with his instrument’s painful squeals of joy. The dulcet tones of his instrument will remind you of this, your four-year home away from home, for the rest of your life.

Reverend Peter J. Gomes: I was one of those unfortunate freshmen who lived in Canaday. (It’s not actually that bad, as long as you don’t ever visit Grays or, for that matter, any other freshman dorm.) Every room in Canaday can hear the apocalyptic tolling of the Memorial Church bell, which rings on the hour every hour after 9 AM and, cruelly, at 8:40 AM. This should have been enough to sour me on Memorial Church forever. However, the man at the head of the Church, Reverend Gomes, is one of the most likable and impressive men at Harvard. Rev. Gomes is a wonderful public speaker, as his sermons and lectures are elegantly composed and a pleasure to hear. But he’s better as one of the few people of his stature at Harvard willing to talk to and listen to students. Seek him out.

That Guy:You know, that guy. At least, you will know him by the end of your first section. He probably has an awful haircut— a ponytail, maybe?— and looks either intense or arrogant. He has read everything unrelated to the course, and makes sure that everyone knows it. (He’s particularly interested in French critical theory, 18th-century German biologists, some filmmaker you’ve never heard of, and Proust.) He knows for a fact that he’s smarter than the TF, but still finds occasion to ask long and rambling questions only that hopelessly derail the discussion. He also may be female, in which case he’s known as That Girl.

Just wait. It’s only a matter of time before you yourself become That Guy.

Get to know Spencer Strub ’09 (strub@fas), and you’ll be rewarded with painful squeals of joy.