Mather House students crowd the steps of University Hall on Housing Day.
Mather House students crowd the steps of University Hall on Housing Day. By Truong L. Nguyen

‘Just Unconditional Happiness’: Annual Harvard College Housing Day Festivities Consume Campus

Freshmen woke up early Thursday morning to the sound of rowdy upperclassmen as they marched into Harvard Yard, waving signs and singing chants in celebration of Housing Day — an annual tradition where groups of freshmen are randomly assigned into one of the College’s 12 undergraduate houses.
By J. Sellers Hill and John N. Peña

On the morning of Housing Day, blockmates Joey Liu ’26 and Alice Y. Yang ’26 awaited their Harvard undergraduate house assignment in anxious anticipation.

“I ran and got a Playa Bowl. I was ready, I was eating it, and then I got nervous. I couldn’t eat my Playa Bowl anymore, and I was really sad,” Liu said. “There was a lot of anxiety and nerves definitely when you’re waiting.”

“I was throwing up,” Yang added.

Liu and Yang’s fears of being “quadded” — placed in the traditionally less popular Radcliffe Quadrangle, which includes Pforzheimer, Currier, and Cabot Houses — magnified as they heard chants of “Pfoho” outside the room.

But when the door opened, enthusiastic residents from Leverett House met the blocking group instead, and the room erupted in cheers.

Freshmen woke up early Thursday morning to the sound of rowdy upperclassmen as they marched into Harvard Yard, waving signs and singing chants in celebration of Housing Day — an annual tradition where groups of freshmen are randomly assigned into one of the College’s 12 undergraduate houses.

The festivities began just before 8:30 a.m., when swarms of upperclassmen from each house flooded freshman halls — a tradition known as “dorm storming” — to welcome their house’s newest members.

By Angela Dela Cruz and Truong L. Nguyen

‘Everything Happens For a Reason’

On the eve of Housing Day, many College freshmen traverse the river houses in a ritual known as “River Run.”

The practice traditionally sees students take a shot of alcohol at each river house in an ill-fated bid to increase a group’s chances of avoiding the Quad, which is located roughly a mile from the River houses.

Jasdeep K. Gurm ’26 said she believes her River Run on the eve of Housing Day helped place her into Eliot House.

“It was beautiful,” Gurm said. “My friend ripped her pants in Eliot.”

Still, some quadded freshmen said they were pleased with their assignments.

Future Currier resident Necati O. Unsal ’26 said he felt “destined” for the Quad.

“I’m so happy about it. I’m overjoyed. It’s the best house,” he said. “The Quad is great. This is a win. I’m so proud.”

Vishnu S. Emani ’26, who was also placed into Currier, said he was going to be happy no matter which house he received.

“I feel a lack of agency in this matter, so I feel like I’m just excited no matter what. I feel like it’s just unconditional happiness,” said Emani, who is Unsal’s blockmate. “That’s the mindset I came into, and that’s the mindset I’m gonna leave with.”

Though Emma C. Rodriguiz ’26 admitted she was slightly disappointed to learn of her assignment to Currier, she said she was happy to defy expectations when she and her blocking group held back tears after hearing the news.

“We tried manifesting Lowell, but it didn’t work. Everything happens for a reason. We didn’t cry though; they were very impressed with that,” Rodriguez added, referring to the upperclassmen who delivered the news.

Alexis L. Monk ’26 said her blocking group was among the first in her dorm to learn of its housing assignment to Quincy House, a locale which she said “seems amazing.”

“We’re really excited about all the amenities at the house, and it seems like a great location, and most of our friends got right near us too, so we’re super pumped,” Monk said.

‘Running the Circus’

As one beloved part of the Housing Day planning process, House Committees compete for clout by releasing promotional music videos showcasing the house’s musical talent, group spirit, and amenities.

The tradition dates back to 2009 and has become a highly-anticipated part of Housing Day throughout the years. Lowell House’s 2013 Housing Day video, “Get Lowell,” has amassed more than 87,000 views on YouTube, while a 2019 Adams Housing Day video boasts roughly 76,000.

Cabot resident David P. Arena ’24 said he believes the quality of Housing Day videos had an appreciable effect on how students reacted to their assignments, particularly in the Quad.

“I think honestly, with the Quad Housing Day videos this year, I think we’ve seen a really big increase in how much freshmen want the Quad,” Arena said.

Quincy Housing Day Co-Chair Dominic J. Costa ’24 said he was tasked with editing Quincy’s video this year, which he described as “a lot of fun” but also “really stressful.”

“My role was really exhausting. I would say I spent a lot of long hours at night working on it. But it ends up being worth it because you get to premiere the results, and people almost always respond well as long as you put a lot of effort into it and show a lot of love for your house and community,” he said.

Traditionally, houses also sport clothing with creative designs that parody brands or pop culture or otherwise relate to house iconography.

This year, shirt designs included a Winthrop House “Casawinthrop” tee — a reference to the tequila brand “Casamigos” — and an Adams House shirt which parodied Jif’s logo, a reference to the house’s acorn mascot.

Emily Parke ’24, a Housing Day co-chair for Quincy, was responsible for handling freshman merch and coordinating activities on the big day. Parke said her planning started in January, when she began collecting ideas for house swag to gift freshmen on Housing Day.

Parke added that there was no relief for organizers in the days leading up to Housing Day, recalling a HoCo meeting in Quincy’s dining hall that “accidentally” lasted three hours.

Despite the many hours spent planning, Parke said it was worth it.

“I was up at 5:30 in the morning and getting doughnuts and everything for people in the house prior to dorm storming, but it was really, really fun,” she said.

Lowell HoCo Co-Chairs Jaya J. Nayar ’24 and Joseph E. Brower ’24 said they have been planning for Housing Day since their first meeting. Brower said their job — which he described as “running the circus” — was made easier by a team of committed Lowell residents.

Nayar said one of her favorite parts of Housing Day was walking with all the Lowell dorm stormers as they made their way to the Yard.

“Watching everybody walk together — and this massive pile of people just of our house, all in the same color, all friends with each other and laughing and yelling about the same thing — was a really magical experience,” she said.

‘Gonna Party in Currier Tonight’

After Housing Day, houses will continue with programming to help freshmen acclimate to house life. On Thursday night, houses opened their dining halls to their newest members for dinners, steins, and scavenger hunts.

Brower said Lowell has many events planned for freshmen through the end of the semester, including a talent show, open houses with the faculty deans, and a trivia night.

On Thursday, freshmen in Dunster were treated to a welcome ice cream bash after the house’s community night, and Quincy’s freshmen enjoyed a live performance from a swing band after dinner.

Nayar said she hopes freshmen attend as many HoCo events as possible.

“The housing community is what you make of it. You can choose to be as involved or as not involved as possible. And the more involved you get, the more this place feels like home,” she said.

Despite the Housing Day and Housing Day eve festivities, many classes — and even midterm examinations — proceeded as usual.

“I have a midterm in about two hours which I still have to study for,” Christopher B. Ruiz ’26 said shortly after receiving his assignment. “So it’ll be a little bit rough.”

Other students opted to take the day to process, like Rodriguiz, the future Currier resident.

“We need time to mentally recover,” Rodriguiz said Thursday morning. “So yes, we will be skipping. Excited for the free merch though. Gonna party in Currier tonight.”

—Staff writer J. Sellers Hill can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SellersHill.

—Staff writer John N. Peña can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @john_pena7.

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