Residential Life

Office of Residential Life

University Hall Ground Floor North Tel: 617-495-1942; Fax: 617-495-1719 Mon.–Fri., 9 am–5 pm

The Office of Residential Life, in partnership with the Freshman Dean’s Office and House system, aims to promote a living-learning community that supports the intellectual and effective growth of Harvard undergraduates. The office also provides housing forms and information about all undergraduate housing, and administers system-wide policies and procedures related to housing.

On-Campus Housing: The System and Assignments

All freshmen are assigned to dormitories by the Freshman Dean’s Office during the summer months prior to their enrollment. They live in one of seventeen dormitories in or near Harvard Yard and take their meals in Annenberg Hall. The dormitories are divided into three areas, each headed by a Resident Dean. These Deans, each with a staff of two senior proctors and several resident proctors, oversee the academic progress and personal welfare of the students in their area. The Dean of Freshmen and his staff coordinate and monitor this system through the Freshman Dean’s Office at 6 Prescott Street.

Each spring, current freshmen are assigned to one of the twelve residential Houses by a random lottery system. The features of the process are publicized well in advance of the lottery’s administration by the Office of Residential Life, University Hall, Ground Floor North.

Resident upperclass students live in one of the twelve residential Houses. The House System is the product of the vision of Abbott Lawrence Lowell, president of Harvard from 1909 to 1933, and is based on the model of Oxford and Cambridge Colleges. Each House accommodates 360-490 students and has a dining hall, common rooms, and facilities for academic, recreational, and cultural activities. House Masters are responsible for the overall management and wellbeing of the House community. As members of its Senior Common Room, each House also has an Allston Burr Resident Dean, faculty associates, tutors, and affiliates, some of whom reside in the House. Students with questions about the tutors’ roles should consult the job descriptions in the House Offices. A program of seminars, social service activities, plays, concerts, lectures, special dinners and parties is sponsored by each House. Houses also field a variety of sports teams that compete in an intramural program. In effect, each House forms a small academic and social community within the larger context of the College and University. A thirteenth House, Dudley House, serves non-resident students and also has graduate student members. A freshman who decides to move off-campus for their sophomore year will automatically be affiliated with Dudley House.

House affiliation and residence for exchange students are determined by a random lottery prior to the student’s arrival.

Housing Policy

All freshmen are required to live on campus. Most upperclass students also live in College housing; those who choose to live elsewhere must submit the Housing Contract Cancellation form.

All students living in College dormitories and Houses are required to purchase full-board contracts and be familiar with the undergraduate housing license contract. Please refer to Housing Guidelines, and the following information about applying for and cancelling housing:

  1. At the beginning of their residence in the College, all students are required to sign a Housing Contract. This contract remains binding for all the terms a student is in residence, and is cancelled by graduation, or by the submission of a Housing Contract Cancellation form. It is renewed by the timely submission of a Returning Student Housing Application.

  2. Students who are on a leave of absence or required to withdraw and intend to return to College Houses must notify the Office of Residential Life of their intention to return by filing a Returning Student Housing Application by the dates given below. A student who has filed an application to return to residential housing for one term and subsequently decides to return for the following term must submit a new Housing Contract Cancellation Form and a new Returning Student Housing Application.


Consequences of Failure to Notify

October 13 - if student is returning for the spring term

Student will be housed on a space-available basis only, and ineligible to apply for an inter-house transfer or enter a housing lottery.


February 16 - if student is returning for the fall term

  1. Students who, while registered, have lived off campus by choice and wish to return to their previous House of affiliation must submit a Returning Student Housing Application to the Office of Residential Life by the following dates:

    October 13 - for students wishing to return to resident status for the spring term
    February 16 - for students wishing to return to resident status for the fall term

  2. All students who decide not to live in College housing, whether or not they are currently registered and whether or not they have signed a Housing Contract, must inform the Office of Residential Life of their intent by filing a Housing Contract Cancellation form by the dates given below. For more information, see Students Who Move Off Campus.


Cancellation Fee

May 17 - if not taking up residence for the fall term 2010

For cancellation fees, please see the

Financial Obligations chart.


November 16 - if not taking up residence for the spring term 2010

  1. A student may leave the House system and/or the College during the academic year to take a leave of absence or move off campus. A student’s financial obligations in the event of a leave or move off campus are detailed in the financial information schedule in Chapter 7. See also Room and Board Costs.

Transferring Between Residential Houses

It is assumed that students will live, for their three upperclass years, in the House to which they are assigned during the Freshman Lottery.

Occasionally, however, students may seek to transfer to another residential House. Students who started the College as freshmen may transfer after completing two terms of residency in the House to which they were assigned. Applications are made in the term prior to when the transfer would take place (e.g., students who want to transfer in the fall apply in the spring). See the Academic Calendar for dates.

Requests for an inter-House transfer based on medical reasons are evaluated on an individual basis throughout the year. Petitions must be directed to the Accessible Education Office or to the appropriate doctor in Harvard University Health Services. Transfers between Houses for medical reasons are rare.

Students may transfer residence from the House to which they have been assigned only through the regular transfer process or by having a medical petition approved.

Housing Alternative: The Dudley Cooperative

The Dudley Cooperative provides undergraduates with an alternative to the residential houses. Students live in the two Cooperative Houses located on Massachusetts Avenue and Sacramento Street. The Dudley Co-ops are a small community of 32. Members pay a reduced room rent to the University and are responsible for the room rent until the end of the term even if they move out of the Dudley Cooperative. Members also pay a reduced board fee. The selection, preparation, and quality of food are taken very seriously. Vegetarians are easily accommodated. Breakfasts, dinners, and weekend brunches are prepared communally; lunches are prepared individually. A number of additional chores are divided among Co-op members such as kitchen and living room cleaning and food buying. Each member of a Co-op spends an average of about six hours per week on these chores. Decisions about the running of the Co-op are made by all of the Co-op members, a practice which helps to foster a supportive and tolerant atmosphere. There are 29 student rooms, two tutor rooms, a large and well-equipped kitchen, and a living room. More information can be obtained from the Dudley House office.

Rooming Arrangements

The assignment of rooms and roommate groups for freshmen is made by the Freshman Dean’s Office. Students are notified of these assignments in August. Questions regarding freshman room assignment should be directed to the Freshman Dean’s Office.

Each House determines the procedure for room assignments for the upperclass students assigned to it. Sophomores beginning residence in a House receive room assignments after rooms are filled by seniors and juniors. Questions regarding room assignment for an upperclass student should be directed to the House Administrator of the appropriate House.

Changes in room assignment within a freshman dormitory or within a House must be approved by the appropriate staff. A student must notify his or her Resident Dean immediately of any change in address.

Gender Neutral Housing

Harvard College recognizes that there are circumstances in which it would be appropriate to consider requests for mixed-gender rooming groups, although the College ordinarily requires single-gender living arrangements. Thus, the Office of Residential Life may, in consultation with the Houses, permit mixed-gender rooming groups in certain circumstances, such as to accommodate students with a gender-based need (i.e., transgender students). To date, exceptions have been limited to those suites where bedroom door locks have been installed by the University, and where the bedroom occupants are of the same gender. All occupants must voluntarily agree to the arrangements. Requests for mixed-gender rooming groups that are made to the Office of Residential Life or the Houses will be addressed and managed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all circumstances, including space constraints.

For more information about this policy or to make a request for a mixed-gender rooming group please contact your House Administrator or the Assistant Dean of Residential Life (032 University Hall, 617-495-1942).

Married and Family Student Housing

Harvard College does not offer undergraduate housing in the Houses or dorms to married undergraduates and/or undergraduates with families. However, students who are married and/or have children may be eligible for Harvard-affiliated housing through Harvard Real Estate Services (HRES). Given the leasing period for HRES housing, students are strongly encouraged to make such a request during the spring term (by February 1) if they are requesting housing for the following academic year. Requests can be made at any time, but the ability to accommodate such requests is more limited after the February 1 deadline. Requests and inquiries related to this policy should be directed to the Assistant Dean of Residential Life (032 University Hall, 617-495-1942).

Effect of Health Issues on Dormitory or House Residence

As a residential college, Harvard takes seriously its obligation to support the well-being of all its students. This charge involves not only meeting to the greatest degree possible the needs of students whose continued residence may require reasonable accommodations in physical space or other arrangements, but also safeguarding the right of all community members to be free from undue disruption in their academic and residential lives. In a residential college, an individual student’s medical illness or behavioral difficulties affect not only the individual, but also may affect others in the community. How these issues may affect a student’s enrollment is discussed elsewhere in this Handbook (see Involuntary Leave of Absence). The principles of consultation outlined here are based on the central importance of preserving suitable living arrangements for all residents, while recognizing that each situation is different, and that fundamental principles, rather than ironclad rules, must govern consultation and decision-making on residential life.

Responsibilities of Health and Counseling Services

Medical care and medical decision-making are the province of clinicians. Thus, in consultation with patients, clinicians recommend hospitalization, arrange procedures, prescribe medications, conduct psychological evaluations, and recommend and implement ongoing treatment. Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) preserves the rights to privacy and confidentiality of students under their care, communicating with others about students only with those students’ knowledge and consent, except as noted elsewhere (see the section on Confidentiality and Consent).

As student health and counseling services, HUHS also acts occasionally as consultants to the College, advising College officers about individual students’ needs, ordinarily with students' full knowledge and consent. Two situations that routinely call for close coordination and consultation between HUHS and the College involve relief or accommodations for students with difficulties, and leave of absence considerations. A student with a medical illness or exhibiting disturbing behavior that affects functioning may need professional evaluation of the condition to determine the appropriateness of temporary or ongoing arrangements, relief or exception to academic requirements, or accommodations, until adequate functioning is restored. In response to a request from a student’s Allston Burr Resident Dean or Resident Dean of Freshmen or the Accessible Education Office (AEO), HUHS clinicians may evaluate a student’s condition and make recommendations to the College, without disclosing non-relevant information they may know independently about a student’s medical or mental health condition.

College Responsibilities

The College, in consultation with the affected student, determines whether an injured or ill student, or a student exhibiting disturbing behavior, may continue in residence, and whether he or she may return to residence after a short or longer-term absence due to accident, illness, or behavioral disturbance. In situations where a student’s medical illness or behavioral disturbance raises concerns about the feasibility and appropriateness of his or her residence in a dormitory or House, the College values the expert advice of HUHS or Bureau of Study Counsel clinicians and AEO in reaching its informed decision on the student’s remaining in or returning to the College residence.

Questions about a student’s residence (as opposed to enrollment) most often arise after a significant illness or injury that requires short or longer-term follow-up care, but may also be prompted by situations in which a student seriously disrupts others in the residential community, or requires sustained services or monitoring beyond the capacity of a college to provide or beyond the standard of care that can be expected of a college health service. Such situations include—but are not limited to—the following:

In such circumstances, students may not require hospitalization for clinical reasons, but the level of care and accommodation essential to their stabilization may exceed the physical resources or the appropriate staffing responsibilities of a residential college and/or the standard of care that a college health service can be expected to provide.

Procedure for Notice and Consultation

In such circumstances, and ordinarily with the student’s permission, clinicians at HUHS or, if the student has been treated elsewhere, clinicians at other facilities or in private practice—will consult with the appropriate officers of the College. Depending on all of the relevant circumstances, such consultation may be initiated either by appropriate officers of the College or by clinicians at HUHS. Notice by HUHS that a student has been hospitalized or treated in an emergency department of an area hospital may prompt the College to begin a process of consultation, through which it will decide whether and under what circumstances the student may continue in or return to dormitory or House residence (see the section on Confidentiality and Consent). The College may also independently decide that, based on its observations or other information it has about a student, it should initiate the process of consultation with HUHS clinicians, and ascertain whether that student has been hospitalized or treated by an emergency department. Consultation will be focused upon general information regarding concerns raised by the student’s condition or behavior and requirements for continued care, in order to facilitate the College’s decision about the student’s capacity to maintain residence. Neither the student’s medical nor mental health record will be available to officers of the College. College officers, who may consult with other affected students and responsible staff (only as necessary and in accordance with respect for the individual student’s right to privacy), will then determine whether it is appropriate for the student to continue in or return to residence.

An important consideration in the College’s decision whether a student may continue in or return to residence is the impact of the student’s presence on the community. The College regards as unreasonable the expectation that roommates, suitemates, friends, or residential staff will take on health care responsibilities for other students. Therefore, the College will consider unacceptable any return-to-residence plan that requires other students to monitor a student’s condition or provide care. In many circumstances, HUHS routinely makes Stillman Infirmary available to a student who has received hospital-level emergency care or who is being discharged from an area inpatient facility. This use of Stillman Infirmary is time limited and short term only, as a means to facilitate the student’s rapid and appropriate transition back to residence. Stillman Infirmary cannot serve as a rehabilitation residence for students whose recovery will be protracted.

Any student may refuse to allow consultation between his or her clinician(s) and officers of the College, but a refusal to allow consultation will not prevent the College from meeting its obligation to reach a decision regarding a student’s return to or continuation in residence. In some circumstances, the level of care recommended by clinicians may cause the College temporarily to change a student’s place of residence or to deny residence, if in the judgment of College officers necessary and recommended care cannot appropriately be provided in a student residential setting or is beyond the capacity and purpose of the College to provide. HUHS may make the Stillman Infirmary available to students who are able to meet their academic obligations but are temporarily unable to reside in a dormitory or House.

Since appropriate residential accommodations and follow-up treatment take time to arrange, students who have been hospitalized should expect that consultation between clinicians and officers of the College will need to occur at least twenty-four hours prior to a student’s anticipated return to residence. Both clinicians and College officers will make every effort to resolve questions promptly and, in case of disagreement, to discuss issues immediately and openly with the affected student. Ordinarily, consultation will occur between the student’s attending clinician and the student’s Resident Dean. In the event of disagreement, the clinician, the Resident Dean, or the student, may ask that the appropriate Chief of Service at HUHS, the House Master, the Dean of Freshmen, or another senior College official designated by the Dean of Harvard College be involved. While HUHS clinicians and officers of the College will endeavor to respect the wishes of students regarding treatment recommendations and residential arrangements, the final determination about residence in Harvard housing will rest with the Dean of Harvard College.

Consultations and Interventions
for Behavioral Disturbances Due to Alcohol or Drug Abuse and Psychological Disorders

The College’s concern for students’ well-being encompasses the preservation of a safe environment and the proactive provision of health resources. The College communicates to all students the availability of psychological, psychiatric, and medical resources at Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) for consultation, assessment, education, intervention, and possible ongoing treatment of behavioral disturbances arising from alcohol or drug abuse and psychological disorders. The College encourages students’ voluntary use of these confidential resources, and proctors, tutors, and Resident Deans routinely refer students to them or remind students of their availability.

Hence, the College’s response to students’ misuse of alcohol or other drugs and to other manifestations of behavioral disturbances extends beyond response to violations of rules. In addition to disciplinary processes that address problematic behavior of the disruption of community life that often accompany or result from misuse of alcohol or other drugs and from psychological disorder, the College also promotes a climate and provides services for amelioration of these difficulties. As a result, students can, in collaboration with appropriate professionals, identify and address their patterns of substance abuse or psychological disorders that may place their own and others’ health and well-being at significant risk.

Occasionally, a student with potentially significant problems in the use of alcohol, use of drugs, or behavioral manifestations of psychological disorder does not voluntarily seek help to ameliorate them. These problems often become apparent to residential staff, Harvard police, or other University officers in the form of significant disruption of life in the residential community, disturbance of personal relationships, or threats to the safety of individuals or of property. Alternatively, a student’s behavioral problems resulting from substance use or psychological disorder may recur or persist over time, a situation that poses significant threat to his or her own health and well-being. In these and similar instances, a student’s Resident Dean may formally refer the student for evaluation of substance use or psychological disorder to HUHS, ideally in consultation and cooperation with the student.

In the referral the Resident Dean will communicate both to the student and to the clinician the basis of the College’s concerns, and will make note of the referral in the student’s file. Should the student choose to decline the referral, then the Resident Dean and senior officers of the College will assess on the basis of available information whether it is appropriate for the student to continue in residence. For exceptional circumstances, the Dean of Harvard College may, if she deems it necessary and appropriate, place such a student on an involuntary leave of absence from the College.

Should a student accept the referral, he or she will meet with a HUHS clinician, who will assess the student’s use of alcohol or other drugs or psychological disorder, and make recommendations of further services to the student on the basis of that assessment. With the student’s knowledge, the clinician will inform the Resident Dean of the fact of the meeting, but will disclose no other information unless the student’s situation appears to pose an immediate threat to the student’s own life or safety or to that of others, or unless the student requests that information be shared.

Should problems associated with substance use or psychological disorder persist after the student has met with a clinician for an assessment and has received follow-up recommendations, the student’s Resident Dean may mandate the student’s participation in ongoing counseling or therapy. In this case, the Resident Dean will make a formal written referral to HUHS for the prospect of ongoing counseling or therapy, and so inform the student. The referral will summarize the reasons for the College’s concern and the requirement that the College be informed in the event that the student should fail to keep appointments, interrupt counseling against clinical advice, or otherwise undermine the therapeutic process. A student will receive a copy of the written referral, and a copy will remain in the student’s file.

After receiving the referral, HUHS clinicians will determine the appropriate nature and venue of services for addressing the student’s substance abuse or psychological disorder. These services may include individual counseling or therapy, medical evaluation by a primary care clinician, ongoing groups for students with substances abuse or behavioral disturbances, and/or other services available to students at HUHS. As with other clinical issues, in certain instances HUHS may deem it appropriate to make a referral of the student to an outside clinician or program. In the event that the student receives ongoing services from an outside resource, that clinician or program shall inform HUHS of the student’s compliance with treatment. HUHS will then have the right to communicate this information to the referring Resident Dean.

Should the student decline to participate in counseling, fail actively to engage in ongoing treatment, or continue to manifest behavioral disturbance, the College will assess whether the student may appropriately remain within the residential community and will reserve the right to terminate the student’s residence, if appropriate. In this instance too, the Dean of Harvard College may, if she deems it necessary and appropriate, place such a student on an involuntary leave of absence from the College. A student placed on leave may request to return to the College when clinicians at HUHS are able to conclude, with the student’s voluntary cooperation with their assessment, that the student may appropriately resume his or her participation in the College community.

Medical Clearance for Return to Residence

After a hospitalization or emergency room visit by one of its students, Harvard College will not permit that student to return to living on campus without making its own assessment of the suitability of the student returning to campus.

To better inform that assessment, Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) should be notified of any hospitalization or emergency department visit (617-495-5711). The Stillman Infirmary of HUHS is available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to students who are temporarily unable to reside in a dormitory.

Reason for Policy

A student who is injured, ill, or exhibiting disturbing or disruptive behavior may require ongoing care. Serious alcohol- or drug-related problems, in particular, have the potential to disrupt dormitory life significantly and impair a student’s ability to function academically and socially. Harvard College regards as unreasonable the expectation that roommates, suitemates, friends, or residential staff will take on health care responsibilities for other students.

Any student may, of course, refuse to allow consultation between his or her clinician(s) and Harvard College, but such a refusal will not prevent the College from making a decision regarding a student’s return to residence.

Housing for Students Requiring Accommodation

Students for whom safety and proximity to essential locations—such as bathrooms, accessible entrances, transportation, and meals—must make these needs known immediately following admission, or as soon as the need is clinically documented, so that proper housing arrangements can be facilitated. Students bringing medically-related equipment should declare this to ensure adequate electrical or other considerations. In some circumstances it may be advisable to visit rooms in advance to avoid incompatible arrangements.

Clinical documentation provided to the Accessible Education Office (AEO) is always necessary to request housing assignments. Specific guidelines for such documentation may be obtained from the AEO Website. The University reserves the right to change a pre-existing housing assignment, even temporarily, if a disability-related life-safety concern exists.

Summer Occupancy of the Houses

Individual students may not reside in the Houses during the summer unless enrolled in programs conducted by the Summer School or another College-affiliated program.

Occupancy of the Dorms and Houses between Fall and Spring Terms

Students are expected to leave at the end of the fall term and not return to campus until the Houses and dorms reopen at the start of the spring term.  During the first part of this period, from December 22, 2009 through January 9, 2010, Harvard College will be closed. Thereafter, from January 10 through January 22, only students with a recognized and pre-approved need to be on campus will be permitted to return to College housing.