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For many Harvard students, the weeks leading up to Housing Day are punctuated with exhilaration, uncertainty, and more than a little stress. Finding a blocking group, which guarantees co-housing with up to seven peers, and deciding on linkmates, which guarantees placement in the same housing neighborhood, often involves navigating a complex matrix of relationships, leaving in its wake a slew of relational casualties.
For the Class of 2027, however, things will be slightly different this coming spring.
Although blocking groups will remain, the College will no longer allow students to link with other blocking groups. Citing ongoing House renewal projects, a recent increase in student population, and the availability of accommodations, the College claims it is doing away with linking groups to preserve the random lottery assignment system.
While we understand the administrative concerns behind the decision, as students, we believe that Harvard went about it in the wrong way.
Save for a sneaky update to a 2016 blog post on the College’s website and a subsequent Crimson article, students were left completely in the dark about this decision. We worry this could have led students in housing-related roles, like Peer Advising Fellows, to disseminate misleading information about housing.
Furthermore, by apparently limiting undergraduate input in the decision making process to groups like the Committee on Student Life (which hardly suffices as a representative body), administrators demonstrated striking disregard for the perspectives of the students this will affect. As a result, the reasoning explicated by the administration, though legitimate, does not resonate with us as a board.
This decision has stakes for campus life. Linking groups offer students the opportunity to form and deepen friendships beyond just their blocking groups. As such, they are a locus for social life on campus. For Quadlings, who live in proximity to only around a quarter of their fellow upperclassmen, linking groups also offer a safeguard against social isolation.
Still, while we acknowledge the importance of linking groups, they shouldn’t make or break student life. Despite our reservations about the process that produced it, we believe this change invites us to think more reflectively and generatively about how to approach our friendships on campus.
Blocking and linking groups offer proximity and convenience, making it easier for us to maintain relationships with our pre-existing friends. With these groups, grabbing a meal and communing for a Saturday movie night is just a door, a floor, or a building away. For this reason, students too often neglect to sustain deep and meaningful friendships outside these groups, and the decision to not block or link with someone can prove the death knell on that relationship.
This shouldn’t be the case. Housing arrangements should remain just that — housing arrangements. They shouldn’t form the sole basis for a friendship, nor the sole reason one should end.
As Harvard ends linking, students should look to forge and nurture meaningful relationships outside the House system. This requires work on Harvard’s end, too: Lifting inter-house dining restrictions, for example, would enable students to meet their friends from different houses over meals, allowing such relationships to thrive.
Ultimately, any decisions regarding the blocking system on campus should thoroughly consider real research and data on the student experience. For now, while we object to Harvard’s procedure, we hope this decision on linking will be an opportunity to thoughtfully probe our friendships, and imagine the possibilities they open for flourishing — outside just one House or neighborhood.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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