In an impassioned rebuke to College leaders, undergraduates voted last night to continue using Harvard funds for student parties, despite orders from administrators
to terminate the party grant program immediately.
The vote of the Undergraduate Council last night came a day after Interim Dean of the College David Pilbeam told student leaders that the College would end the program out of concern for student health.
In an overwhelming majority, the UC voted not to repeal the party fund reauthorization from two weeks ago for money that had been granted during the two-week UC election period. UC representatives also decided to set aside $2,000 to hire a lawyer, should the Council determine it to be a necessary step.
After the tense vote, UC Vice President Matthew L. Sundquist ’09 said that he hoped that discussions would continue between the UC and College administrators.
“We just need to be ready and we want to be well informed,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen from here—I just hope that we’re all able to work together and do something that is beneficial for students and helpful to social life, but legal and safe for everyone involved.”
Several students voiced concern over the manner in which the administration repealed the grants and the tone of Pilbeam’s Tuesday letter.
Katherine Y. Tan ’10 called the decision “imprudent” and “based on the gut reaction of faculty who are out of touch.”
“I don’t know if starting a petition would help, but I think that [the UC] should definitely fight back,” Yan said.
Marc K. Bhargava ’08, a resident of Eliot House’s Ground Zero party suite, said that the dean’s aim to increase student safety by ending the party grants program will likely backfire. More students will attend final clubs parties instead, he predicted, leading to situations where “excessive drinking is even more likely to prevail.”
“The College gives minimum concern towards the activities of its undergrads,” he said.
In an interview with The Crimson yesterday, Pilbeam said that his decision was intended to improve student safety. He said that House Masters, resident deans, and individuals from University Health Services had all voiced concern to him about undergraduate alcohol abuse.
“I was hearing from a lot of different people about what they saw as problems,” he said.
Pilbeam said that he and other College officials feel that it is their responsibility to protect students. As a result, he said, administrators could not support a program that could not guarantee that underage students would not have access to alcohol.
“I had absolutely no choice,” he said.
“I can assure you it didn’t give me any pleasure to write what I did, but that’s it. It’s not negotiable,” he added.
Pilbeam acknowledged that ending the program would not stop all underage drinking. But, he said, “What I am constitutionally charged to do is to make sure that people come to no harm.”
In a letter addressed to students who had e-mailed her with complaints, Associate Dean of the College Judith H. Kidd emphasized that private parties could still proceed, as long as they follow House and entryway rules. She declined to comment on the UC’s vote.
—Anna Kim, Prateek Kumar, and Nikita Makarchev contributed to the reporting of this story.—Staff writer Aditi Banga can be reached at email@example.com.—Staff writer Brittney L. Moraski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.