Students furnish feedback on furniture

first_imgWhen Natalie Jacewicz ’13 and her blockmates moved into Winthrop House, there were some unexpected challenges — getting a futon for their common room up four flights of stairs was one.“Aside from the heavy lifting, it required a lot of coordination,” Jacewicz said. “Choosing it, buying it, putting it in storage until we could move it into the suite, … it was quite an adventure.”Thanks to House renewal, future generations will be spared this trial. As each House is renewed, the College will replace the hundreds of futons and secondhand chairs that undergraduates have been purchasing for generations with new furniture.“When the Old Quincy test project, the first section of a House to be renewed, reopens next fall, the building will be fully furnished with beds, desks, tables, couches, and other comfortable furniture,” said Harvard College Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds.Over the past two weeks, College administrators have been actively gathering student feedback on how the common spaces and student bedrooms will be furnished.During a recent open house at the Student Organization Center at Hilles (SOCH), Jacewicz toured furniture displays from four different companies. The candid, in-depth feedback gathered from the students will help administrators both narrow down specifications for ordering furniture for Old Quincy and work toward a standard to draw on for other Houses.“One of our goals was to select furniture that was flexible so that students could set their room up the way they wanted to,” said Merle Bicknell, assistant dean for Faculty of Arts and Sciences physical resources. “Some of the displays have two stackable dressers … others have beds that can be raised so that stackable dressers, or even a desk, can easily slip underneath.”Chris Farley ’16, who also attended the open house, welcomed the University’s effort to reach out to students. “Actively seeking student feedback like this really reflects favorably on Harvard,” Farley said. “Students know what it’s like to live in these spaces day in and day out, so they have insight and feedback that can really help.“The fact that the University recognizes and values our feedback as the people living in these spaces and using these items, that they acknowledge that perspective as valuable, is extraordinary,” Farley added.Harvard furnishes 2.5 million square feet throughout its Houses, so part of the challenge is providing furniture that meets unified standards. Merle Bicknell, assistant dean for Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) physical resources, said that empowering the students to make the space their own is a key part of the project’s success.“One of our goals was to select furniture that was flexible so that students could set their room up the way they wanted to,” Bicknell said. “Some of the displays have two stackable dressers, which can be set up as a stand-alone dresser. Others have beds that can be raised so that stackable dressers, or even a desk, can easily slip underneath. We want to give them the ability to adjust the space as he or she sees fit.”Each of the four furniture displays features two sections: an average-size single bedroom and a common space suite area. Bedroom designs include a bed, desk, wardrobe, and bookshelves, while the common space designs seat up to 12 people and come in an array of armchairs, loveseats, ottomans, and sofas.“I was surprised by all the options,” Farley said. “For example, one of the desks had several outlets for all the various gadgets you have in modern life built right into the desk. I saw that and immediately thought about how much easier my life would be if I had that.”The ability to customize the space is what caught Jacewicz’s attention. “The administrators also encouraged us to say how we would mix and match the different pieces — they were really interested in knowing how to further improve the options on display.”For Carina Myteveli, administrative operations officer with FAS resources, the open house and student tours of the displays offer a chance to think outside the box. “We’re just asking students to look at the furniture and tell us what they think,” Myteveli said. “Do you like the fabric, the arms of a chair, the table? All these pieces can be customized to students’ overall feedback and specifications. We want to give students the most options we can; they live in these spaces for so many years, and it’s their home away from home. We want to give them the opportunity to make that space their own, as much as we can.”“I’m a senior, so there’s not a possibility of my enjoying it,” Jacewicz said wistfully. “But it will be cool to come back 10 or 15 years down the line, and know that I had some hand in the decision. It’s nice to be able to leave a mark on Harvard in this way.”last_img read more

Watching ‘Scandal’ in a Faulkner state of mind

first_imgLinda Chavers’ knowledge of William Faulkner is encyclopedic. The lecturer in African and African American Studies, who first read the Nobel Prize-winning novelist when she was 19, owns four different editions of “Absalom, Absalom!” and can recite huge chunks of the narrative from memory. If you want to check, she can even point you to the correct page.“I’m Faulkner all day, every day — maybe not the man, but the works,” said Chavers, who paired the white Southern writer’s work with that of African-American writer-producer Shonda Rhimes for her course “Faulkner, Interracialism and Popular Television.”“Whenever I read something and it resonates, it stays with me the rest of my life,” Chavers added. “Absalom, Absalom!” is “a difficult novel to read, but for a really good reason. I think it helps students with their worldview, and develops an interdisciplinary type of mind.”For the TV part of the class, Chavers turned to Rhimes, whose hit show “Scandal” was her go-to binge watch her last year of graduate school at Harvard — and more than a guilty pleasure.“There was so much Faulkner in it,” she said. “I felt there was a lot of crossover between what I was reading and what I was watching … and I wanted to bring that into my work as a scholar.”After completing her dissertation, “Violent Disruptions: William Faulkner and Richard Wright’s Racial Imaginations,” she created her first literature-meets-TV course in 2016 while teaching at Temple University.Chavers opened a recent session of her Harvard course with a March 2017 “Scandal” episode titled “Extinction.” With her students seated around a conference room at the Hutchins Center, she paused before hitting the play button. Treat the episode “as a visual text,” she told them.,After the viewing, Bella Roussanov ’19 pointed to the episode’s theme of black bodies and who has ownership of them, while Jonny Adler ’19 noted the Darwinian language, quoting the character Eli Pope’s line “I’m not a predator. I am a very smart prey” when explaining his choices to his daughter, the show’s main character, Olivia Pope.Adler, who is concentrating in history and literature, said he took the class to become better-versed in both Faulkner and Rhimes.“I’ve seen a few episodes of ‘Scandal’ and ‘How to Get Away with Murder,’ but I’m not a longtime viewer,” he said. “I was looking for an excuse to engage with her work critically.“I also haven’t had too much Faulkner and I wanted to force myself to read these novels. Dr. Chavers knows what she’s talking about, and I like how fun the class is, how it’s trying to make connections that aren’t obvious.”Chavers places her connection to Faulkner in the context of growing up in Washington, D.C., in the late ’80s and early ’90s.“Washington, D.C., was pretty segregated so I got to grow up taking my blackness for granted,” she said. “Then I went to NYU for undergrad, and found myself being asked fairly regularly what I was, and being pushed when I said African-American. It was one of my first times experiencing colorism and having something I felt to be natural questioned, as if I didn’t have a right to be black.“This piqued my interest on a scholarly level and a personal level. I realized if I couldn’t be placed, I could be met with hostility, so when I read ‘Absalom, Absalom!’ my sophomore year I became fascinated with this story where I felt seen and heard in this Southern white man’s work of literature.”Chavers noted that the class is largely made up of students with minimal knowledge of Rhimes and Faulkner’s work, which has helped prompt lively and surprising discussions. Meghan Onserio ’19 enrolled at the last minute, dropping another class to make room for it in her schedule.“This class is a lot cooler than I thought,” said the history and literature concentrator from Minneapolis. “I’d never read Faulkner before and I was interested in seeing how popular television could engage in academic scholarship. Professor Chavers has been able to successfully connect the two as she provokes, invokes, and encourages us to think more critically about what we see in media and entertainment.”last_img read more