Plan Would Evict Student Groups From Yard Offices

Dean says move is necessary to create freshman social space

The College plans to evict nearly all student groups from offices in Harvard Yard and force them to move to the Radcliffe Quadrangle, sparking an immediate outcry from group leaders.

The move will make room for more freshman social space in the Yard, Assistant Dean of the College Paul J. McLoughlin II told group leaders last night.

A handful of groups that are primary focused on freshmen—such as the First-Year Outdoor Program and the Prefect Program—will keep their current homes, McLoughlin said at the meeting in Emerson Hall.

Leaders of the groups being forced to the Quad complained that their new offices in the Hilles Building will not be sound-proof, and that the groups will not be able to carry on sensitive discussions in private.

The co-chair of the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance, Michael A. Feldstein ’07, said at the meeting that the lack of sound-proof space in Hilles could be particularly problematic for his group, which often conducts conversations with students who want to keep their sexual orientation private.

Feldstein is also a Crimson editorial editor.

McLoughlin told group leaders that zoning guidelines bar the College from constructing ground-to-ceiling walls in the Hilles space. The groups’ offices will be separated by bookshelves and curtains, he said.

“The very nature of most of our organizations is that we need privacy,” said the publisher of the Harvard Salient, Ryan M. McCaffrey ’07. “Most of all, we need to be able to lock up things in an office. We have a lot of sensitive stuff in our office that we can't have in the open,” he added.

Although McLoughlin’s announcement provoked an uproar from group leaders, it came after an 18-month process in which the dean and students on a special task force of the Committee on College Life examined the potential move.

The co-head of the Harvard Intercollegiate Model UN Team, Nicholas Vidnovic III, expressed disappointment with the outcome of the process. “When administrators make decisions without a lot of student input, it detracts from student satisfaction,” he said.

A member of the task force, Theodore E. Chestnut ’06, defended the process, saying that some student group leaders were included throughout.

Undergraduate Council Matthew J. Glazer ’06 said the move “has the potential to create more social space for freshmen—which they are sorely lacking.”

But Glazer expressed concerns that some groups evicted from Yard basements might not get space in Hilles.

“It might be the case where some groups that presently have an office might not get one,” Glazer said. “It’s my hope that groups can successfully be relocated and those that don’t currently have space can eventually have space.”

Student groups already face the problem that their offices are too small to hold meetings, according to the co-president of the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations. Edward H. Thai ’07. He said that currently, offices are relatively close to the spaces in the Yard where groups hold their meetings—but that won’t be the case after the Hilles move. “It’s just doubling the problem,” he said.

The president of the Asian American Association, Eveleen S. Hsu ’07, said that groups need to keep their meetings close to freshman dorms—in order to woo new members. “I think the freshman social space is a good idea, but student groups need to stay close to the Yard,” she said.

University President Lawrence H. Summers pledged over $6 million this fall to renovate social space in the Hilles Building and the basements of Canaday, Holworthy, and Thayer Halls. Summers’ aid package also included funds for a pub in Loker Commons and a café in Lamont Library.

—Staff writer Margaret W. Ho can be reached at mwho@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Risheng Xu can be reached at xu4@fas.harvard.edu.