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Harvard Adopts Universal Quad/Unquad Housing Assignments For First-Years Due to Coronavirus

First-Year students are standing by in their Zoom Rooms for Harvard's inaugural Quad/Unquadding Day.

CAMBRIDGE, MA -- On this year’s annual Housing Day, Harvard College will be giving first year students a housing assignment of either “Emergency Quad” or “Emergency Unquad,” or QEM/UEM, according to emails sent by Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda J. Claybaugh and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay. 

The Office of Housing and Residential Life made the recommendation to Deans Gay and Claybaugh after speaking with faculty, students, graduate schools, fellowships, and employers. Though many advocated for the usual housing assignments, ultimately the unique situation created by the current pandemic demanded changes to Housing Day. “We of course remain committed to Housing Day,” Gay wrote in her email, “but we cannot proceed as if nothing has changed. Everything has changed.”

The decision came as a disappointment to those who had been advocating for standard housing assignments. Many felt that Emergency Quad/Unquad removed all the nuance of the house system, since there was no differentiation within “unquad.” One anonymous student, in a particularly heated GroupMe debate, wrote that “I’ve been working all semester towards being put in Lowell, but my slacker friend is looking like he’s gonna wind up in Kirkland. Yet, under this system we’re equal — how else am I supposed to flex on him?!”

The approach was also condemned by the UC, who endorsed what they termed a “double-River system.” In this novel approach students would receive housing assignments of either "River" or "River-", the latter referring to Dunster and Mather, since they are “just as far away from the Yard as the quad.” According to a petition circulated by Harvard For All, this system differentiates between students while minimizing stress caused by housing assignments. The petition argued that “many first-gen, low income students are hit especially hard by the current situation, and therefore would not be able to handle the stress of getting quadded the same way that other students would. The only fair housing system is one that is fair for everyone.”

However, the double River system was opposed by some athletes, who argued that they worked hard on the field in order to be put in a river house, and putting everybody in river houses would invalidate all their hard work.

Ultimately, the double River arguments were also unconvincing to Claybaugh. “Nobody will take Harvard seriously if the worst you can do is "River-". There has to be a possibility of getting quadded,” she wrote. “People need a house that they can be proud of, and more importantly, someone else’s house that they can make fun of.”

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