Council Fund Gives Away First Free Tickets

Last week, 500 undergraduates received letters from the College’s Office of Financial Aid telling them that they could obtain free tickets to campus-wide events simply by accessing a website.

The letters marked the completion of more than a year of planning by the Undergraduate Council to allow students who receive considerable financial aid the opportunity to attend student-sponsored events like House formals and a capella concerts at no cost.

“We wanted to come up with some sort of program to make sure that everyone can participate as fully as possible in extracurricular life and in all the opportunities that exist at Harvard,” said former Council President Paul A. Gusmorino ’02.

Last spring, the council named their project the Student Events Fund and managed to solicit funding from both the Office of Financial Aid and the Office of the Dean of the College—$10,000 from each.

The Student Events Fund advisory committee, composed of Gusmorino, Rohit Chopra ’04 and M. Kate Richey ’03, estimated that if a student attends two formals and four plays, total ticket costs over the semester will approach $40 for each student.

When the advisory committee approached members of the financial aid office and the dean’s office with their proposal, administrators said they immediately offered funding for the project and began to help with its planning.

“It seemed like a terrific idea all around,” said Director of Financial Aid Sally C. Donahue.

“With the availability of this fund, students, who for lack of funds might not be able to attend fee-charging events in which their friends and roommates appear, will now have the opportunity to do so,” Associate Dean of College David P. Illingworth ’71 wrote in an e-mail. “So not only the students on aid benefit, but also the students in the groups which sponsor various campus events.”

With the funds in place, the financial aid office then set about choosing 500 students who would be eligible for the fund, those they judged most in need of ticket subsidies.

Students who received the letter of eligibility are directed to a website where they are prompted to enter their names, student ID numbers, and passwords to obtain event tickets.

Each student can only request one ticket per event for any student-sponsored activity on the Harvard Box Office’s calendar.

Because Student Event Fund tickets are obtained online and picked up at the door like any other pre-paid tickets, organizers say the system maintains a high level of anonymity for students.

“It’s just like any other person who pre-paid but didn’t actually go to the box office,” Chopra said. “Not even the students who put it together know anyone who’s in it.”

So far, from last Thursday through Sunday, the box office received an estimated 100 ticket requests from 70 students through the website, according to box office managers.

According to Meghan C. Swift, a box office staffer, Cultural Rhythms, The Vagina Monologues, and Women in Color have seen the most ticket requests.

Efrain G. Guerrero ’04, who is eligible for the fund, bought a ticket to the Veritones concert tomorrow. He said that without the Student Events Fund, he might not have chosen to attend the concert.

“Because it is free, it did make me think about attending something I might not have attended before,” he said.

The Student Events Fund is funded only until the end of this semester, and its advisory committee is currently seeking a long-term source of funding.

“This can be such a great program that I think a donor will see how great it is and want to make it permanent,” Chopra said. “It hasn’t gotten into the permanent budget of the College.”

—Staff writer Claire A. Pasternack can be reached at cpastern@fas.harvard.edu.