Harvard’s Dunster House Says Goodbye to Goat Roast

An annual tradition at Dunster House dating back to the ’80s is being retired.


Photo via Getty Images/Roman Babakin

A decades-old tradition is dying at Harvard. No, not the exclusive finals clubs or the legacy admissions. It’s a goat roast.

That’s right, goat roast. Dunster House, one of 12 undergraduate residential houses at Harvard, has been skinning and roasting a real goat in its courtyard since the 1980s. But not this year, according to the Crimson.

Cheryl K. Chen and Sean D. Kelly, the house’s faculty deans, sent an email to residents Friday announcing the end to the primal tradition. They cited health concerns raised by an environmental health inspector and students feeling uncomfortable at the event.

“Cheryl and I have decided that the goat roast this year will not include the traditional ritual of slaughtering, transporting, and, in the main Dunster Courtyard, skinning the carcass of a goat with paleolithic tools,” Kelly wrote in the email.

Daniel Lieberman, then a resident of the house and now a biology professor at the college, started the tradition in 1986. It was apparently a spinoff of a class he taught about primitive survival skills.

To their credit, Dunster residents aren’t completely hands-off during the roast. Every year, according to the Crimson, students and house staff smear the carcass with salt, pepper, lime, curry, herbs and garlic then leave it to marinate overnight before it takes its place of honor on a spit over an open flame.

One resident, Iris R. Feldman, told the Crimson that the discomfort caused by the event was good for students.

“If you are comfortable eating meat in the dhall, but you aren’t comfortable with the goat roast—those are the same thing,” Feldman said.

Kelly says they’re looking for new ways to continue the tradition, albeit with much less goat roasting in years to come. The deans suggested a petting zoo or a White House Correspondents’ Dinner-esque figurative roast as more fun, less neanderthal-ish replacements.