“The life of man,” declared Thomas Hobbes, was once “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” with “continual fear and danger of violent death,” and so it remains with the life of students who live in the River Houses.
Freshmen, I know you must be excited, eagerly awaiting your House assignments. But I know: You’re afraid to be Quadded. You envision your Housing Day living in mortal fear: knees weak, palms sweaty, as you imagine the Pforzheimer polar bear, the Cabot codfish or the Currier tree a-knocking at your door, sealing your fate for the next three years. Oh, the horror!
As a Quadling who was in the same boat last year, I can assure you your fears are overblown. Allow me to justify the ways of Quad to freshmen—for the River is much worse.
For starters: the Quad is architecturally pleasing and has incredibly spacious housing. Compare this, if you will, to the River, where you could be placed inside that giant concrete cinder block masquerading as Mather House, or (God forbid!) be sentenced to purgatory in that labyrinth of walkthrough doubles that somehow became Kirkland House.
“But wait!” I hear you cry. “The Quad is so far away!” I appreciate the distance to the dangerous River, where one can get assaulted, stabbed and mugged, or invaded by sketchy suspects (sorry, Leverett House). Contrariwise, the Quad remains pristine, devoid of tourists, criminals, and other reminders of a strife-plagued world. This is what makes it a home: the issues of the weary wider world simply do not haunt us here in our hinterland. Besides, the 13-minute jaunt is a great source of exercise for those, like me, averse to any other form of physical activity. For the more athletically inclined, the Quadrangle Recreational Athletic Center is like the Malkin Athletic Center (and now with Lowell’s climbing wall!).
Yes, I admit there are drawbacks. Porter Square is closer than Harvard Square, and I always feel a twinge of regret when, coming outbound on the T from Boston, I skip Harvard and get off at Porter. But the Porter Square station is a lot nicer. And yes, there is civilization outside Harvard Square! Walking up Massachusetts Ave. (or penny-boarding, as a good friend of mine does) is a great pleasure. The shops and buildings, unique amenities, and vastly superior Chinese fare all add to Cambridge’s unique atmosphere. Ours is a city that is more than overpriced hamburger shops, empty clothing stores, and illegally-operating markets.
Plus, Porter Square has a Target coming soon, to add to the 24-hour CVS, bookstore, great Thai food restaurant, and more already there. What does the Square have? The Dickson Bros. Hardware Store and a Warby Parker. A Warby Parker! I know Harvard students love to act the hipster, but honestly—we’ve gone too far!
As I have stated before, I can’t overstate how much better the living is in Quad Houses—it’s a great advantage. Pforzheimer House was apparently at full capacity this year, and still I am told only eight of my fellow sopfhomores were unlucky enough to have hallway doubles during the fall. My linkmates in Currier House live in a suite with a fully-furnished kitchen and an excessively large common room—and they were by no means first in their House lottery. With the exception of monstrous Mather, why would one want the possibility of getting housing as bad or worse than that of your freshman dorm? Do you relish getting "sexiled" by your two roommates in your walkthrough triple?
Additionally, River Houses can also consume one whole. Take Adams House. Living in that Gothic mansion of decayed wealth is like waiting for the fall of the House of Usher—it’s only a matter of time until it caves in on itself. They desperately need their upcoming renovation!
Finally, the Quad’s party spaces are incredibly lively. As someone who lives three stories above the world-famous Pfoho Igloo, my inability to sleep on Friday and Saturday nights is a testament to how “lit” the Quad is. Compare this once again to Adams, which notoriously instituted a ban on alcohol in their social spaces. I personally don’t even drink alcohol, and I’m offended by that policy. You will find diversity and inclusion in the Quad, my friends—no unceremonious banishing and bashing from us!
If you do get sorted into a River House, I do offer my condolences. Such are the odds, after all—like our poor brethren at that safety school in New Haven, we can’t all win at life. March is the cruelest month, as T.S. Eliot, Class of 1909, might have said (a reference to the House of the same name, I’m sure.)
Okay, I’ll be honest. Despite my facetiousness, you will be happy in whatever House you get sorted into. Housing Day is one of celebration, not despair. It’s a day in which the entire Harvard community comes together and celebrates a unique tradition found nowhere else. Whether polar bears or penguins storm your dorm this Thursday, enjoy the suspense, the excitement, the thrill, the amazing feeling that comes with being part of a new community that will accept you. It’s not just a House you’re joining, but a home.
Robert Miranda ’20, a Crimson Associate Editorial Editor, is an English concentrator living in Pforzheimer House (the best House).
Toward a Better Housing SystemMy suggestion is that the University allow blocking groups to list their House preferences one through twelve, as under the past system. Then, much the same as the process for handpicking freshmen for each Yard dorm, House masters would handpick blocking groups with knowledge of their preferences, while ensuring diversity in each House.
A Letter to the Class of 2019We could not be more thrilled to have you join our communities. And we were all like you once—terrified, worried, and just a little bit excited. We’re writing to encourage that excitement.
New Target to Open Near Quad in Porter Square
Come to DinnerFor the roughly 25 percent of the Class of 2021 that will be lucky enough to be visited by polar bears, trees, or codfish on Housing Day this year, I can only ask of you one thing.