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The Houses of Williamstown: Zeta Psi … ( A Re-issue)

(This is the 15th in a series of 16 posts) This series ran in 2009 … click Comment for complete text.
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The Houses of Williamstown: Baxter Hall … (Reissue)

(This is the last post in a series of 16) This was originally posted 26 Nov, 2009. Sharp eyes may have noticed the disconnect between 14 and 16: namely Zeta Psi. The Zetes reissue was posted on May 20, 2017.


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More EphWarts

Although EphBlog does not intend to spend an absurb amount of time on the Houses of Hogwarts and their relationship to the new Neighborhoods of Williams, we do want to give the topic a definitive treatment. Alas, this looks like it will require a lot more work than we have already put in. EphBlog accepts the challenge! This also provides an excuse to revisit two books that every Eph should have close to hand: Mark Hopkins and the Log by former Professor of History Fred Rudolph ’42 and Reflections on the Architecture of Williams College by Professor of Art Whitney Stoddard ’35.

To review, let us start with the attributes of the houses as listed by Wikipedia and some of the key structures/histories of the Williams neighborhoods to which these attributes might imply.

Hufflepuff is the most inclusive among the four houses, valuing hard work and patience, loyalty and friendship, and justice and fair play rather than a particular aptitude in its members.

Gryffindor values courage, chivalry and boldness.

Slytherin values ambition and cunning.

Ravenclaw values intelligence, knowledge, and wit.

Currier (i.e., the Berkshire Quad) is simply the only choice for Hufflepuff. For the last 20 years at least, it has been known as the Odd Quad, easily the most inclusive collection of residences at Williams, filled with Ephs willing and able to accept each other as they are. This tradition of inclusiveness goes back more than 75 years, to the era of the Garfield Club — the eating facility for the men refused admittance to the fraternity system or unwilling to enter it.

But the other three houses are much trickier, despite my excessively facile answers of yesterday. Perhaps we need is some help from Guy Creese ’75, whose thesis on the concept of the gentleman at Williams must be relevant to this discussion. In any event, here are some of the most important aspects of the three remaining neighborhoods.

1) Dodd. Although the history of Dodd House does not suggest anything sinister, I am still leaning toward Slytherin, if only because it seems like Gryffindor and Ravenclaw belong elsewhere. In addition to our prior claims about Dodd being the “prep” area 20 years ago, note that the Sytherin Quidditch Team is all male. Historians of Williams housing history will recall that perhaps the original “breakdown” — depending on your point of view — of free agency was when Tyler Annex became almost completely male helmet-sport athletes. (We still need to identify the Eph who came up with the idea of using the option of “squatting” to create a virtual fraternity. History needs to know his name!) If the Dodd Neighborhood is Slytherin than Tyler Annex is its Quidditch team.

2) The Spencer Neighborhood includes Mark Hopkins and Bryant (from the Greylock Quad), Morgan, West, Spencer (Chi Psi) and Brooks (Delta Kappa Epsilon).

Spencer is probably the best bet for Ravenclaw, although the evidence is not as strong as for Dodd, much less Currier. For example, it is beyond dispute that “courage, chivalry and boldness” were more important in the DKE House of yore than “intelligence, knowledge and wit.” (Sorry, Dad!) But, since the DKE House burned down in 1959, we can safely ignore this contra-indication.

More important to our efforts is the role of the Adelphic Union and its two sub-parts (the Philologian and Philotechnian Societies) to the initial history of Williams.

The Adelphic Union split into the Philologian and Philotechnian Societies when it outgrew its quarters in West College in 1795/6. The Philologian and Philotechnian were created due to the Union’s increased size, not because the two societies subscribed to different ideals. According to the 1883 revised edition of the Philologian constitution: “The object of this society shall be the literary improvement of its members.” The object of the Philotechnian Society, as stated in the 1873 version of its constitution, was: “…the intellectual culture of its members.”

Given that West is now a part of the Spencer Neighborhood, one might make a strong case for Spencer as Ravenclaw, with its emphasis on “intelligence, knowledge, and wit.” This is further emphasized by the vision of Mark Hopkins on one end of the log as well as by the inclusion of the poet (William Cullen) Bryant as one of the houses.

The most subtle bit of history concerns the Sigma Phi fraternity that used to be located where Morgan is today. See also the controversy over the construction of Sawyer Library. I am not sure if this tale is of use in our classificantion efforts.

3) The Wood Neighborhood includes Perry (Alpha Delta Phi), Wood (Zeta Psi), Garfield (Delta Upsilon) and Agard (Delta Phi) along with Carter and Gladden from the Greylock Quad. Having established the identity of the other three neighborhoods, all that is left for Wood is Gryffindor. Given that it is clearly the most fraternity-heavy of the four neighborhoods, this is not an unreasonable classification. Whatever else may be said about the fraternities, they did not put an emphasis on inclusion (as with Hufflepuff) or on intelligence (as with Ravenclaw). Viewed charitably, they certainly valued “courage, chivalry and boldness.”

And so we are done. In summary and in order of surety:

Currier == Hufflepuff
Spencer == Ravenclaw
Dodd == Slytherin
Wood == Gryffindor

Upon reflection, it would seem that the evidence for Spencer as Ravenclaw is better than that for Dodd as Slytherin.

Reader comments?



Although the WSO Discussion feature has not, so far, thrived, a critical question has been raised.

With the recent move by CUL to a four cluster plan, I feel that one question looms large in the minds of all Williams College students:

Of the four clusters, which corresponds to which Hogwarts house and why?

I feel that the answers to this question will be vital to the success of the neighborhood system, and so it should be discussed in such an open forum before the cluster draws occur. So which cluster (Dodd, Currier, Spencer, Wood) is which house from Harry Potter (Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin, Ravenclaw)? You decide!

How can we possibly answer this question until we know the faculty associates for each house?

AB ’07 goes with:

Spencer, Wood – Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw

Dodd, Currier – Gryffindor, Slytherin

No. I would add my thoughts to the discussion, but it does not seem that alumni are allowed to participate. I do not see Currier as Slytherin since such an assignment does not connect to the history of the Odd Quad. Neither, obviously, would Gryffindor. I think that Hufflepuff is the best match.

Hufflepuff is the most inclusive among the four houses, valuing hard work and patience, loyalty and friendship, and justice and fair play rather than a particular aptitude in its members. . . . Perhaps as a consequence of the broad principles of acceptance upon which it is founded, Hufflepuff has been stereotyped as the house of the unexceptional (or, more unkindly, as “a lot o’ duffers”).

The reputation of Dodd, at least in the 1980’s, was as the “prep” house. So, if any cluster is to be Slytherin, I am afraid it must be Dodd, assuming that “pureblood” == “prep”. The notions of aristocracy are certainly similar. Tyler could certainly provide a nice Slytherin Common Room, with its distance from campus serving as a metaphorical basement.

But what of Griffindor and Ravenclaw? Good question! Since Carter House is in the Wood neighborhood and I lived in Carter and I am the Mad-Eye Moody of Williams alums, the key question is which house Moody lived in. Alas, even Wikipedia does not provide the answer. If it was Gryffindor, then Spencer == Ravenclaw.

But what do our readers think? Surely there are some fraternity references that should apply. Note that Ravenclaw :

values intelligence, knowledge, and wit. Its emblematic animal is the eagle, and its colours are blue and bronze (silver in the films).

So, which fraternity was the “smart” one?

(Yes, I have read all 6 books to my daughters. They are much better than you might expect.)

UPDATE: This is really a critical question and we need help from our readers who know the history of houses and fraternities. To be specific, the Wood neighborhood includes — other than the Gladden and Carter — Perry (Alpha Delta Phi), Wood (Zeta Psi) and Garfield (Delta Upsilon). What were the reputations of these fraternities back in the day? The Spencer neighborhood includes Hopkins, Bryant and Morgan along with West, Spencer (Chi Psi) and Brooks (Delta Kappa Epsilon). Only the last two are former fraternities. Would West’s status as the oldest dormitory be useful here? Note that these fraternity linkages are only guesses on my part using this college source. DKE burned down before 1960 and so was never literally in Brooks (built in 1961) but was replaced by Brooks.

I guess that we could also look to the history of the men associated with the names of various houses. See here for some background on the Presidents of Williams. Nothing jumps out as useful. So, I think that our best bet is to figure out which fraternity was the smart one; whichever neighborhood has it because Ravenclaw. The other is Gryffindor. Right now, my guess is that Chi Psi (Spencer) had the reputation as the scholarly fraternity, so the Spencer neighborhood should be Ravenclaw.

This might also be consistent with the Spencer neighborhood as having only one real fraternity. Since Gryffindor “values courage, chivalry and boldness,” it would seem natural to assign it to the neighborhood with the most former fraternities, which would be Wood.

I will not rest easy until this is settled. Help us Frank!


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