One question that a lot of underclassmen ask me is “how do I get on hoco?” And I actually love answering this question for two reasons. One is because I am flattered that they associate me as the source to go to when they have questions about HoCo and also because I get to tell my story about how I fell into HoCo and at the same time unknowingly fell into my niche at Harvard. So, I am going to treat all of my readers as a first semester sophomore right now and I am going to give you all the same sphiel that I have said what feels like a hundred times, but is probably closer to like ten.
How did you join HoCo?
I joined HoCo completely on a whim and I am still not sure if how I got involved is conventional. I met a girl named Brittany Wang at an intramural flag football game. Both of us did not play a single play in the game, but we hit it off on the sideline. We were cheering way too loud for an intramural competition and playing music and singing out loud. The next week Brittany sat with me at dinner and told me she was one of the Co-Chairs of Quincy and she thought that I should run for HoCo. My first question was “what is HoCo again?” I honestly had no idea. And she told me HoCo is the group of people on campus that organize formals and boost house spirit. My response was “sure!” but then I had no idea what I should run for. Brittany suggested that I run for social chair, which kind of scared me. I told her I was nervous about running for an elected position because I didn’t know anyone in the house, but she reassured me that it was fine- and that no one was going to run against me. That made me feel better and I ended up running unopposed- just like Brittany said- and was elected as one of the two social chairs.
Going into the first meeting I knew no one on HoCo. It was kind of scary to be honest. And for the entire first semester I actually hated it because I felt like I was not able to express my thoughts about any matters or issues that came up because I did not know anything or anyone. Entering my second semester as social chair, though, I really learned more about the people I was working with and also met a lot more people in the house, so the job became a thousand times more enjoyable. I became really close friends with a lot of the people that I served on HoCo with and with people that I met through my role on HoCo both in and out of Quincy.
Looking back I do not think that my route was a standard one. I believe people have a little better idea of their job description when they choose to run for HoCo and I know that in other houses there is usually more participation in elections. Usually, people run for HoCo positions opposed and people in the house have to vote on an online system and elections are usually competitive. We also have to make a short description of why we want the position and that gets sent to the whole house. Some people also choose to campaign by putting up posters and going around the dining hall introducing themselves. I really fell into HoCo by luck and chance, but I feel very fortunate that I did. It has been one the most difficult, yet rewarding positions that I have had in my life.
Why did you become a Co-Chair?
That is a good question that also involves a back story. When I was serving as a social chair, I was observing and judging everything that the co-chairs were doing. There were things that they did that I totally agreed with and learned from them, but there were also things that I wanted to do differently and that motivated me to want to run HoCo eventually.
The co-chairs when I was a social chair were very efficient. They knew how to get the job done and went into meeting saying what had to be said and then they got out, which is an admirable leading style. My leading style- I have learned- is very opposite to that. I value the community building aspect much more and believe that the best outcome is having people get along, not just production. That was my internal passion that drove me to want to be a co-chair and now that I am here I have a lot of mixed feelings about the position.
Do you like it?
I have only been a co-chair for half a semester. I know that there is a lot I still have to learn and that I cannot judge the role right away, but I do have strong feelings about this role and about HoCos in general after the short time that I have been in charge.
There is no denying that almost any leadership role that a student has at Harvard is extremely taxing. I have worked harder in this position than I have in any other leadership role I have had in my life. I believe, though, that this role can be run in a less stressful way, but it depends on the dynamic of the entire HoCo and how much the co-chairs demand from their team. If one person on the house’s hoco does not do their duty, the burden always falls on the co-chair to fix the situation before the house knows that something is wrong. It is very difficult, I have discovered, to have the rest of the HoCo hold themselves to the same standard as the co-chairs because if something goes wrong, they are not really the ones who people will find at fault- the co-chairs usually are. To be fair, when I was a social chair, I did not realize how much work being a co-chair was, so it was hard for me to put in the extra time when they asked me because I didn’t know how much effort they were putting in. Now that I am on the other side, I finally see how much work and pressure it really is.
Another critique I have of the job is that is is very difficult to be a medium between the house administrators, the students, the college administrators, house tutors, the UC, and HoCo chairs from other houses. It is just a lot of constant texting and endless emailing and desperate phone calling that really takes a of you after a while. Trying to complete the tasks that all of these outside groups are asking of me frustrates me because it takes my time and effort away from my main mission that I declared for myself when I became co-chair: to build Quincy community. I get bogged down by trying to make a housing day video, or by trying to organize Yard Fest block parties, when all that I really care about is helping to make my house a place that is open and welcoming to all. But being the leison between these different groups is also one of the reasons why I like it so much.
One of the reasons why I love this position is because of the lessons that it has taught me. This role has greatly affected how I view myself as a student on Harvard’s campus. It makes me see much easier the cliques between groups of students on campus and it makes me constantly seek ways in which to help confront the problems with the social scene on campus. It has also taught me how to be a more effective leader- that even though I want to include as many voices as possible at all times, sometimes I just have to make a decision myself.
I have grown considerably closer with students in the house, administrators in the house, tutors, and other HoCo chairs through this role. And this position not only introduces you to new people, but also bonds you with them in a way that I have not experienced while being part of any other group at Harvard. Often times it seems like everyone is unappreciative of the work that HoCo does and is quick to judge when something goes wrong, but not willing to lend a helping hand when we ask for input. Overall though, I think this position has been an amazing and unique learning experience. It has taught me invaluable leadership skills and has introduced me to my best friends. Even though it often seems like the entire house is unappreciative of the efforts that HoCo does, it just takes one person who goes up to me and says “Hey, I really liked Festa! It was so fun!” or “How can I get on HoCo?” to remind me that all of my efforts are totally worth it.
How does this role relate to other things that I do?
Like I mentioned earlier, I kind of fell into this role by accident. I was very involved in intramural sports in my freshman dorm and that carried over when I got into an upperclassmen house. I would go out to any IM sport that I could- and that is how I met Brittany. I am still very active in IMs now and am one of the Quincy representatives.
Another role that I have adopted over time is working as one of the Quincy building manager’s assistants. I worked with him over the summer and have not stopped working for him since. I like it because I get to interact with the people in Quincy who are kind of behind the scenes- like the maintenance workers, the security guard, and the building manager himself.