Assistant Dean of the College Paul J. McLoughlin II, the administrator responsible for the decision to discontinue the first-year summer mailing, said that the process “was haphazard and grew without anyone asking if this was the best way to notify freshmen.” Instead, the Office of Student Activities (OSA) will send out a brochure that gives students an overview of campus activities.
The OSA began sending out the summer mailing to first-year students in 1995, when approximately five publications were included. The most recent mailing, however, grew to include information about 18 to 20 organizations, as well as several copies of campus publications.
McLoughlin cited inequity as the primary reason for the mailing’s discontinuation. He said only a small percentage of Harvard’s 295 campus organizations were sent an information slip explaining how to be included in the packet.
“I would have had to invite everyone to feel like I was being fair,” he said.
McLoughlin also said that the mailing was an ineffective use of resources—the first-year summer mailing costs publications $200 each, and costs the College $8,000. He said the information could be better distributed online or at the Freshman Activities Fair in September, and the money could be better spent by distributing grants to student organizations.
McLoughlin also mentioned that the mailing was environmentally harmful, since information can be distributed online without wasting any paper.
Campus organizations are divided over the change.
Elizabeth S. Thrall ’04, managing editor of the liberal monthly Perspective, said that while she thought the mailing was useful to first-years, she saw room for improvement.
“We definitely have lots of freshmen say they saw the mailing in the mail, so it’s clearly not completely ineffective,” she said. “But there may very well be more efficient ways of communication.”
Other groups are less optimistic. “There’s not enough time during freshman week to figure out what activities you want to do,” said Alexander S. Captain ’06, executive editor of the Harvard International Review. “The freshman mailing gives you information ahead of time, so you can make a better decision once you get on campus.”
McLoughlin said he received complaints about the mailing change from The Crimson and from Diversity and Distinction, a monthly magazine.
President of The Crimson Erica K. Jalli ’05 said that “My First Year,” an introduction to life at Harvard as well as to The Crimson, was particularly useful to first-years.
“This is a very important service because it introduces students to residential, social and academic life at Harvard,” Jalli said. “We are exploring different ways of offering similar services to freshmen, though having the actual edition of ‘My First Year’ mailed to student’s homes before they step on campus is the best option as far as we’re concerned.”
Diversity and Distinction Editor-In-Chief Dina B. Mishra ’06 said that in addition to hurting recruitment, the termination of the summer mailing would also hurt fundraising. Several publications, including Diversity and Distinction, solicit additional revenue by offering advertisers access to all first-year students before they arrive in Cambridge, she said.