Hotel Space for Commencement Scarce

For some seniors, the hardest thing about Harvard isn't getting in. It's getting their parents a hotel room during Commencement Week.

Commencement Week, which began Sunday and lasts until Friday, draws a glut of proud relatives from 50 states and six continents.

A reservation agent at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel said other college graduations in the area contribute to the room crunch.

"Harvard is definitely the reason [for the crunch] but there are other schools here too," he said.

The agent said Commencement-goers hoping to stay at the Park Plaza must reserve rooms up to 10 months in advance, although some clients call years ahead.

Most seniors said their parents made reservations a year in advance, a policy recommended by the Unofficial Guide to Life at Harvard.

An operator for the Charles Hotel said the hotel begins taking reservations for the next year's Commencement Week at 8 a.m. on June 9. She said the hotel is usually booked within two hours, and callers who do not receive rooms are put on a waiting list.

Proximity to Commencement events make hotels in the Square the most popular, but relatives lucky enough find rooms there pay higher prices.

A clerk at the Inn at Harvard said rates rise during Commencement and other busy times. He said typical room rates fluctuate between $199-$239 during the year but rise to $239 during Commencement Week.

According to the Unofficial Guide, the Hyatt Regency Cambridge's rates increased nearly 100 percent during Commencement, from $105-189 to $195-220 per room.

John R. Carroll '97 said price hikes made his parents opt for accommodations in Boston.

"The places in the Square--they jack the prices up so much for Commencement and you can get a nicer hotel for the same price if you don't mind staying in the city," Carroll said.

In general, less pricey hotels raise their rates less. According to the Unofficial Guide, the Newbury Guest House in Boston raises its rates by $20 while the Susse Chalet Motor Lodge, located near Cambridge's Alewife T-stop, increases its rates by only $15 per night.

Eric J. Castillo '97 said no matter how much they were willing to pay, his parents could not reserve a room at the Inn at Harvard.

"Supposedly, they would not accept reservations a year in advance," Castillo said. "But when my mom called [a year ago], they told her specifically that rooms had already been booked in advance."

Even some first-years have tried to beat the crunch. Melissa R. Langsam '00, a Crimson editor, said when she visited Harvard as a high school senior, someone told her to make her Commencement hotel reservations well in advance--if she should decide to attend Harvard.

When her parents visited her last fall for Freshman Parents' Weekend, they ate brunch at the Inn at Harvard. According to Langsam, her mother took the opportunity to reserve a hotel room for Commencement.

"And the scariest part was, [we] weren't the first people to make reservations for the year 2000," Langsam said.