By Mimi Tarrant
Harvard Housing Day
Who do you want at your door on Thursday morning?
By MIMI TARRANT
As Harvard’s Housing Day approaches, what better way for first-years to distract themselves from the impending doom of the coronavirus than the imminent threat of being self-isolated in the Quad for their next three years at Harvard? Here, the Indy ranks the 12 Houses based on nothing but three and a half years of subjective Harvard experience. Some may even say this subjectivity leads to the same kind of ‘randomness’ as the Harvard housing lottery; in other words, this ranking may be not very random at all, and somewhat very predictable, especially if you happen to be a legacy whose father happened to make a sizable, timely donation to the Adams’ renovation plan.
After much consideration, the Independent decided to keep it predictable with what House clinched the top spot; Lowell never fails to disappoint, with its imposing bell tower and luscious courtyards more than making up for the bellringers on a Sunday morning. That being said, if anyone is looking for truly comedic content, then stop reading the Independent right now in favor of the ‘Overheard at Harvard’ Facebook exchanges between Lowell’s bell ringers and their strong-minded opposition. I am sure the bell-ringing community has never met the types of stinging comments that they do on the anonymous Facebook page, maybe explaining why Lowell’s bells have seemed to be getting progressively louder over the semester. That being said, the community at Lowell is really second to none, and as we all try and continue to get into their highly-exclusive, highly-restrictive dining all through the back entrance, we can only dream what it would have been like to have been accepted to the elite institution that is Lowell.
Up in our number 2 spot, Adams has experienced an extreme jump in the rankings based on its hotly anticipated renovations. While it may be true that Adams’ dining hall most closely resembles a dungeon, and that the number of rats may currently outnumber the number of Adams residents, here at the Independent we are focused on the future, and that future sees Adams being the House that everyone is talking about. Its close proximity to the Yard means that it’s perfect for grabbing a quick lunch in between classes, and the renovations are sure to help lighten the place up a little bit. Plus, the fact that the Adams House staff are just allowing murals to be painted all over the old buildings is adding to the character of this House, and we all know that if Harvard needs anything, it’s a bit more of this individuality and rule-breaking (here’s looking at you, Dean Khurana).
Some readers may be surprised by Winthrop not occupying a top-two spot, with this making even less sense when learning that a disproportionate amount of the Independent staff spend almost all their time at a certain dining hall table in Cashin Dining Hall. That being said, prolonged exposure helps highlight certain flaws, so here at the Independent we wish to dispel some myths about Winthrop. First, the dining hall is not as clean as it seems, with fruit flies a constant accompaniment to the milk machine, and mice a frequent occurrence in the Winthrop GroupMe. Second, Mark and Mary, the saving graces of the Winthrop Faculty Dean debacle, are not returning for the next academic year, a decision the House student body is pretty upset with. However, to the outsider looking in, Winthrop remains the picture of River perfection, and as we all know Harvard is a place where being superficial gets you far, we decided to keep Winthrop in third position.
Remember when we said that Lowell was the elite institution of Harvard? Well, we take that back, as we had forgotten about Eliot and its ridiculous alumni network, its well funded House events, and its air of superiority as it stands on the corner of the river. By only allowing Eliot residents swipe access for its courtyard gate, this notion of eminence is only heightened. It’s the House all athletes pray for, granting them ten minutes extra in bed for a morning practice as aforementioned gate cuts off considerable time to athletic facilities across the river, The House itself may be nothing to write home about in terms of living conditions, what does general living hygiene matter to a Harvard student who just wants some extra minutes in bed every morning?
Arguably one of the most underrated and underappreciated Houses at Harvard, the Independent decided to place Dunster high up on the list for several reasons. First, it is the late dining hall of the River, and given that HUDS’ dining hours are designed for either the elderly or children who go to bed at 8 p.m., this is a huge asset to Dunster. Second, the Grille and basement area of Dunster is hugely underexplored, and arguably is one of Dunster’s best features. Head on over to Dunster to feel like you are escaping the bubble of Harvard Square for a little bit; but don’t worry, you won’t be venturing too far from civilization.
So, apparently Quincy has already been renovated, but you honestly wouldn’t be able to tell if you avoided Stonehall on your visit to this central House. While the dining hall is nice and bright, in the summer it becomes a greenhouse, with the glass windows just trapping all the heat in, and the ceiling fans proving once again how ineffective they are at actually providing any relief from the Boston summer. This is why Quincy doesn’t find itself higher on the list—it’s the House that’s wanting to be a renovated House, but it doesn’t hold the respect or reputation of the Lowells and Winthrops out there as its renovations seem to have been a bit, well, redundant. Once again, a classic example of Harvard putting its $38 billion endowment fund to good use.
It is true that Kirkland has character, and as the House to most recently change its shield, Kirkland is proving that you can’t write it out just yet. Yet, as the House most in need of renovations, Kirkland is definitely falling at the wayside of the other River Houses. Its five floors with no elevator, and questionable room set-ups even for seniors means that all its residents simply try and hide behind the fact that it has the best ‘House spirit.’ The number of times that they mention their special Holiday dinner, with bagpipe playing and crazy parties afterwards (lovingly referred to as “Incestfest” — enough said about that one), just goes to show how Kirkland’s residents are really clutching at straws when the usual arguments in favor of Kirkland resurface as housing day approaches.
There is a strong argument for Leverett being one of the most irrelevant Houses at Harvard—split across DeWolfe street, it is apparently the largest residential House at the College, yet you would never know it. Good luck meeting someone who speaks with pride about the fact that they are in Leverett, or actually, good luck finding someone who speaks about them being in Leverett at all!
Mather: the Quad of the River. While you may be guaranteed a single, you’ll either never be there as it’s so far away from the Yard and other Houses, or you’ll spend all your time in Mather and simply never meet anyone new, ever again. While this isolation might be an exciting prospect for some Harvard students, the isolation is masked; having ten Harvard students is never going to end well, explaining why the hallway singles of the Tower are where seniors reside after they’ve fallen out with all 9 of their other blockmates after rooming for sophomore and junior year. The only positive: the dining hall is always empty, as no one values marginally better HUDS food over the 15-minute walk it takes to reach it.
The Independent must profess to being slightly in the dark when we approached the bottom three of this ranking, as the amount of time spent in the Quad has been negligible, especially since our office moved out of the SOCH. Despite only really visiting the Quad when it is dark (and an unreasonable amount of alcohol has been consumed to make ‘visiting the Quad’ seem a good idea), the Independent is certain that Pfoho must top the list, simply because its mascot is a polar bear and the Igloo has been the site of a few surprisingly okay nights. That being said, it doesn’t stop our deepest sympathies going out to the first years who see a polar bear approaching their dorm room on Thursday morning—just pray it’s for your next-door neighbor, and not for you.
Currier beats Cabot to spot number eleven, as yet again the late-night dining hall hours act as a saving grace. While the outside of Currier strongly resembles a prison, the dining hall more than makes up for this with its fountain that looks more in keeping with a Thai restaurant than a college dining hall, yet to each their own. As one of the smallest Houses at Harvard, Currier calls on its close House community, yet their mascot being a tree perhaps tells you all you need to know about the House pride of the residents; if you’re able to get passionate about representing a tree, then maybe you need to reevaluate what you’re doing with your time.
Finally, bringing up the rear, is Cabot. It is hard to write about a House that you know absolutely nothing about, but at the Independent, we like to give things our best shot, so here it goes. They have good summer storage. They have an Aquarium that is not actually an aquarium (and is highly disappointing as a result). The dining hall is hard to find. Truth be told, if you open your door to Cabot on Thursday morning, it would be more than reasonable to get those transfer excuses started early with the Harvard Housing administration.
Mimi Tarrant ‘21 (email@example.com) ‘won’ the lottery freshman year with Winthrop House, and she hopes you find yourself somewhere in the top six come Housing Day morning.