I realized last week that I should have signed up to be one of the student liaisons to the Coop board. Not because I care so much about the future of the Coop and my humble part in it, not because I have an excessive amount of time on my hands and certainly not because I glory in running for any and every elected office (especially those which are generally overlooked and universally ridiculed). No, I should have taken on that particular "civic" duty because perhaps my lone voice could have somehow prevented the Coop's latest move: the supposedly temporary closing of the Bow and Arrow Pub and neighboring Baskin-Robbins/Dunkin' Donuts franchise.
The ousting of these longtime Bow Street establishments is ostensibly to last only a few months, while the Coop--Cambridge corporate citizen extraordinaire that it is--renovates and beautifies the building. But considering the stated attitude of Coop President Jeremiah P. Murphy '73 (who said they as owners are seeking "the best type of tenants for Harvard Square"), when the building reopens, it seems likely that the Square will soon be one bar and 31 flavors short.
This is old news; if it didn't involve beer, donuts and ice cream, I would assume that the issue would already be off most campus radar screens. And maybe it already is. But I believe that would be a mistake. I believe we need to look up from our books and take notice. I believe, in fact, that this is our moment to unite, to rise up and make a grand gesture against the unfeeling powers of corporate America, who are stripping our surrogate hometown bare before our very eyes.
I move that we stage a massive student boycott of the Harvard Square Coop.
Go elsewhere for your office supplies (Bob Slate), books (Harvard Bookstore or practicallyanywhere.com) and Harvard insignia gear (the man behind the escalator in the T station will get you a fabulous deal). If you have a young child in the family that cannot, simply cannot go on without that "Someone at Harvard loves me" teddy bear, you are exempt from this protest movement--who am I to crush the dreams of a child? (If you yourself simply cannot go on without a daily supply of Harvard clothes, stationary and teddy bears, you too are exempt. Because you scare me.)
What better mode of protest for the busy Harvard student than one that requires absolutely no extra effort--one, in fact, that requires you to stop doing something and thus will be sure to free up your schedule? By the time we reach the second semester of the boycott, the Coop will be so frightened of losing all its business to amazon.com that they will accede to any demand. Our demand, of course, will be that they leave the Bow and its neighbors alone or, failing that, take some precautions to ensure their return in the fall.
Sure, we might take some flak for the embarrassing fact that only the threatened loss of our beer and ice cream--rather than, say, the plight of the grape-picker or sweatshop worker--was able to motivate us apathetic Harvard students into action. But who are They, whoever They turns out to be, to deny the importance of beer and ice cream?
Because I would never be so foolish as to ask this campus to rise out of its communal apathy without a good reason, I've come up with a series of arguments carefully crafted to convince the disparate portions of the Harvard student body that a Coop boycott is a good idea.
Argument #1--For the resume junkies:
Every movement needs a leader (I'm certainly not going to do it) and, as we all know, every leadership position is another notch on your resume belt. Lose that last election? Have some free time on your hands? Imagine how impressed Goldman will be next year when they find out you've already driven a company to its knees.
Argument #2--For the preservation nuts:
This is your chance--the Wursthouse was gone before you even set foot on campus, you let the Tasty slip through your fingers, but now here it is, the chance to finally make your stand and save the Cambridge of the little guy. Not that Baskin-Robbins is exactly the Little Shoppe Around the Corner, but as an independent franchise operation that's been here for thirty years. It will do for the purposes of this argument. Do you really want Cambridge to turn into the Mall of America II? Do you really want to see the birth of the Bow Street Baby Gap? I didn't think so.
Argument #3--For the procrastinators:
For all of you who can't drag yourselves out of bed until after lunch, who need to finish that last game of Minesweeper before starting the paper you have due in two hours, who don't have time to buy anything, much less contemplate not buying things--well, you go ahead and just keep doing what you're doing.
Argument #4--For the "over-21" crowd:
Drinkers of the world, unite! Less uptight and oppressively preppy than Grafton, closer than the Cellar, the Bow is a Harvard tradition. In an era of steadily diminishing social options, the last thing we need here is to eliminate the few we have left. Besides, where else will you end up at midnight on your twenty-first birthday--the Grille?
Argument #5--For the rest of us:
Let's face it, the Coop sucks. You know it, I know it and I assume that by this time, even the Coop knows it. I'm not suggesting that I want to drive the Coop out of business, although I know plenty of people who wouldn't weep at its demise. The prices are absurd, the books you need are never there and, if you're anything like me, there's always a busload of tourists in line in front of you, each individually buying strange items with foreign money. The Coop sucks and it always has. Take this opportunity to let them know that you know.
Remember, this attack on Bow Street isn't a random blow dealt by an anonymous member of corporate America. This comes from our little piece of corporate America; let's claim our ownership, once and for all.
Robin L. Wasserman '00, a Crimson editor, is a history and science concentrator in Adams House.