Harbin Forever

By Joe Harten

So, Georgetown doesn’t have fraternities, and maybe that’s a good thing. No eating clubs like Princeton or residential colleges like Yale, but freshman dorms on the Hilltop have a luster all their own. It’s not as exclusive and probably not intentional, but the social bonds created among the randomly selected inhabitants of these brick eyesores are something that Georgetown students have for four long years.

Three years ago, I began unpacking my Alice in Chains CDs and plastering my portion of freshman dorm real estate with posters from the movie The Crow and my boyhood idol Alonzo Mourning. Harbin Hall would be my home for the next eight months, so I figured I ought to make it feel like it.

Harbin was a great place. It was a place where everyone was delegated half of a room with a built-in desk, communal showers and more fake wood than a retirement home. But it was more than a dormitory, and still is.

To this day, I have no idea what Village C is like. I don’t want to know. I am a Harbin man. I don’t even know how to negotiate the Village C labyrinth and I don’t think I knew where the dorm rooms were in New South for most of the year. I figured they were somewhere near the cafeteria.

But I knew Harbin. I still do. I know that there is a closet where this lacrosse player used to fill up his 2-gallon Brita container. I know where the cable closet is where half my floor illegally hooked up their televisons and got angry second semester when somebody figured it out and cut them off. I know that if you take the elevator to the second floor, you had better be ready for some dirty looks. And, I know that when it rains, if you watch the lobby carefully, you can see girls in high heels fall really hard.

Harbin people never change. The group outside smoking cigarettes. The drunken rowdies that can occasionally be seen carrying the guard desk into the courtyard. The Yates addicts in spandex, with a yellow radio attached to their hands or arms. The five-or-so potential computer science majors who get their phone calls forwarded to the computer lab. And everyone else.

Going into sophomore year, I thought I knew everyone on campus. Turns out, I only knew the people from Harbin. All these Village C and New South people lived near me in Henle, and it was something of a reality shock that I had no idea who they were.

This summer, the university had construction done on Harbin. I must admit I was a little concerned. I hope the same old Harbin is in there somewhere. But since I am fairly sure that the same dust and filth that Bill Clinton dealt with in 1966 still lingers in the halls, I am not that worried. But the new Southwest Quadrangle presents more of a threat to the Harbin that I know. Will freshman sprawl change the social dynamics of the big three? Will Harbin still be a freshman dorm?

I still consider myself a Harbinite, and neighbors from my freshman dorm are still familiar faces. Freshman dorm environments are important here at Georgetown. Who you know. Who you’ve seen stumbling home in the morning and who’ve you seen in their pajamas pulling their hair out during finals. The people from dorms are often the first people students really get to know. And that makes a silly residential statistic so important.

So, as freshmen set up shop in their dorm room of the university’s choice, they should keep in mind that it will be the first of many distinguishing characteristics of their college life. If you don’t love it now, some day you will.

Joe Harten is a senior in the McDonough School of Business.

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