Summers Grants Millions To Fund Student Space Construction

Loker Pub plans solidify

The Office of University President Lawrence H. Summers will provide millions of dollars to fund a slate of social space renovations—including a Loker Pub and Lamont Café—the College announced today.

Though many of the renovations had previously been announced, several, such as the Loker Pub, had not been finalized.

The construction effort, which will span several years and over 57,000 square feet of space around the Yard, will include renovations to Hilles Library, Loker Commons, and the basements of Canaday, Holworthy, and Thayer Halls, in addition to the construction of a café in Lamont Library.

Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross '71 declined to comment on the exact figures but noted that the cost would total “several million dollars.”

“It’s a substantial grant,” Gross said this afternoon. “It’s way more than I can come up with [in] the College budget.”

Gross said today that plans would move forward to convert Loker Commons into a pub and that both Summers and Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby supported the effort.

The renovation of the top three floors of Hilles will convert 50,000 square feet of library space into student space for student group offices, social space, and shared workspace, according to Gross.

The project has been in the works since Harvard College Libraries announced in Fall 2003 that it would scale back its Hilles collections.

Earlier this week, the College confirmed plans to move forward with a campus women’s center, which some had proposed placing in the new Hilles building.

But Gross said today that though the College has not decided on the location of the women’s center, the additional space in Hilles will free up space across campus.

“With the addition of this space we finally have the chance to go ahead with [the women’s center] and start a search for a director,” Gross said.

The addition of the 50,000 square feet of space in Hilles as well as 7,000 square feet of space in the basements of Thayer, Holworthy, and Canaday will force the College to assess its policies for assigning space to student groups and student social events.

“A frontburner issue for the College this year is the assignment of student space,” Gross said, adding that the responsibility will fall to the Committee on College Life.

The announcement is also the first official word on a timetable for construction of the Hilles project since the College released its Hilles/QRAC space committee report in summer 2004.

Gross said that he hopes Hilles and Yard basement construction will begin this spring and the Café would be installed in Lamont by the end of the 2006-2007 academic year.

“That’s optimistic because it depends on the other construction projects in the University,” Gross said.

Harvard is currently building graduate student housing on Cowperthwaite street, renovating the Hasty Pudding Theatricals building on Holyoke St., and restoring the exterior of Widener Library and Memorial Church.

The extensive renovation plans are part of a substantial administrative effort over the past several years to address on-campus social life, an oft-criticized aspect of the Harvard student experience.

Few students were surprised when in late March, the Boston Globe reported results from the 2002 senior surveys showing that the graduating class was highly dissatisfied with social life at Harvard.

According to the survey, Harvard averaged a 2.62 for its campus social life, compared to an average rating of 2.89 at other schools, and netted a 2.53 for its sense of community, compared to 2.8 at other schools, the Globe reported.

“All the surveys show that we do well in the areas of residential and extracurricular life, and that we could do better in the areas of social life and academic experience,” Gross said today. “This has informed my priorities.”

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

—Staff writer Joshua P. Rogers can be reached at jprogers@fas.harvard.edu.