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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

These news items about residential colleges, collegiate houses, and the renewal of university life are posted for readers of the Collegiate Way website. For more about residential colleges and collegiate universities please visit the main Collegiate Way page.

College Christmas, College Home

— A residential college is a great household, and during the holiday season, especially, it should feel like one. Good universities know this, and they and their members value the home-like environment that residential colleges provide. (Not-so-good universities, by contrast, see themselves as businesses rather than households, engaged in the manufacturing of products to fill pipelines and the selling of services to customers.)

In the Harvard Crimson earlier this month, undergraduate columnist Marina Magloire captured the collegiate spirit of the Harvard house system in her essay on “House and Home”:

Maybe it’s the fact that we’re all just jittery, waiting on snow and the end of drudgery and the opportunity to go home in a week. Or maybe the cold is coaxing us into our rooms like turtles into shells. Or perhaps Christmas spirit really does exist. Whatever it is, I’ve noticed that house life at Harvard reaches its peak during the holidays. Girls lay out dresses for house formals, Secret Santas creep through corridors, and the dining halls smell like evergreen forests because of the wreaths we have put up and the trees we have decorated ourselves. Now more than ever, students are retreating into their houses and surrounding themselves with all the pleasures the holidays have to offer.

The same spirit lives in the residential colleges at Yale. “One of my favorite Yale traditions is the annual holiday dinner,” writes student-blogger J. Lin at Silliman College. “Besides the big one for freshmen in Commons, each residential college hosts their own feast, with their own traditions…. Silliman in particular has a special tradition: a performance from the Silliringers! Some alum donated a lovely set of handbells, which are brought out just a few times a year for practicing (‘for minutes and minutes’) and the annual performance.”

Why are Harvard and Yale getting this attention? Because their students (not their marketing departments) are writing about it. Your students can do the same: just give them a great collegiate household to belong to, donate some handbells, and watch the holiday magic appear.

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2021