Company Says Tabling Tactics Don't Ring True

When Iain D. Bridges ’04 and James M. McDonald ’04 set up a table in Lowell House to sell class rings last week, they didn’t think they were violating University policy.

But The Harvard Shop—a competitor of Bridges’ and McDonald’s employer, Ringware—was quick to tip off Harvard officials when it got wind of their tabling activities.

Finnegan Hamill, manager of The Harvard Shop, sent an e-mail to House administrators, accusing Ringware of failing to obtain the required permission slip from the dean of the College’s office before setting up shop in Lowell.

“It’s unfair for Ringware to come out of nowhere and start selling rings without following the same rules we do,” Hamill wrote in the e-mail. “I don’t know why Ringware expects special treatment, but if everybody else has to go through the Dean’s Office, there’s no reason they shouldn’t, too.”

Hamill asked House administrators to send an e-mail to all students informing them that Ringware violated University policy.

According to Vicki Macy, assistant administrator of Adams House, Hamill’s concerns prompted her and other administrators to remind students that anyone soliciting for private companies within the Houses needs the explicit permission of the office of Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68.

But some say the policy is giving The Harvard Shop and its parent company, Harvard Student Agencies, an unfair advantage.

Morevoer, Bridges said he and McDonald obtained permission from Lowell House before selling the rings.

“This is clearly an attempt [by the HSA and the Harvard Shop] to maintain their monopoly (or duopoly) in the class ring business,” Bridges wrote.

“Ringware is officially licensed and registered and has as much right to sell class rings as HSA and The Harvard Shop,” Bridges said. “The Harvard Shop’s claim that we have violated University policy is false, as we have gained the

proper permission to table at Lowell House.”

Beth Terry, assistant House administrator at Lowell House, said that the class ring controversy raises questions about the policy’s purpose and wording.

“I think that the tabling policy needs to be clarified so that it isn’t misinterpreted,” Terry said. “This is not as salacious of a story as The Harvard Shop says it is. It’s just a misunderstanding.”

“What’s really interesting, though, is what the policy suggests about the HSA’s monopoly over selling merchandise, about how outside corporations are approved to table in the first place,” Terry said.

The policy is intended to protect the privacy of students in their residential House, according to Macy.

“Students shouldn’t be subjected to the selling of merchandise within their Houses, where they live and relax,” Macy said. “Business in the Houses should be kept to a minimum.”

—Staff writer Kimberly A. Kicenuik can be reached at kicenuik@fas.harvard.edu.