Every other fall, the Boston Police Department (BPD) foils undergraduates’ plans for a Harvard-Yale alcoholic apocalypse.
Undergrads traditionally respond with a passive-aggressive temper tantrum that befits the world’s most gifted children. Amid the moans and groans and the predictable panic, they end up looking like that guy from the first Austin Powers movie who gets run over by a slow-moving steamroller—screaming helplessly in terror before being squashed.
And all just a week before Thanksgiving.
This year’s tailgate will end at kick-off, just a few short hours—hours!—after it begins. The predictable hair pulling has already begun. Indignant dining hall chatter has House Committee leaders wondering if anyone will show up at all. After all, if you don’t have an entire afternoon to wander around Allston, blindingly drunk, in the freezing cold, what’s the point of making the impossibly long trek across the river in the first place? Ec 10 alumni all, undergraduates will doubtless make the only rational choice—skipping the festivities in favor of getting sauced at home.
Even though the new rules are no different than those dumped on other Boston-area universities, and even though there has been, and will be, a lot more to Harvard-Yale than the now-missing last few hours of the tailgate, hysteria seems to be the order of the day. Anyone who claims that the new rules stand to ruin Harvard-Yale, or who refuses to show up at the tailgate in protest, is being epically silly. After all, it could be a whole lot worse.
Queen’s University is one of Canada’s most prominent institutions of higher education. Equidistant from Montréal and Toronto, Queen’s is the sine qua non of Kingston, Ontario, a town whose historical importance—it was once Canada’s colonial capital—has been sucked out of it by the growth of its two metropolitan neighbors. The university, meanwhile, has endured, as has a significant coterie of townsfolk—as one might expect, the two are at constant loggerheads.
Every fall, Queen’s holds Homecoming, a debauch-fest that apparently makes Harvard’s tailgate look like a coffee klatch. This year’s Homecoming, however, smashed records and more than a few windows—police handed out at least 600 fines and arrested 138 people. A local emergency room physician declared that, “loss of life is inevitable” if Homecoming remains on the calendar. Kingston residents, up in arms for years about the chaos in their streets, stepped up their lobbying efforts, and Homecoming started earning the university some very negative national attention.
So Queen’s cancelled it.
This week, while Harvard kids cried out that the shortening of their tailgate meant the end of their annual state school role-playing fantasy, Queen’s—an actual state school—pulled the plug on its Harvard-Yale analog until at least 2011. Alumni will instead be wooed back to campus for lower-key reunion events in May, after the undergraduate population has quit campus for the summer.
The reaction by Queen’s alumni has been telling, especially to one who was involved in planning the much-maligned 2006 Harvard-Yale tailgate. As one recent Queen’s grad told The Globe & Mail, “we don’t come back to go to receptions with the dean…Kingston is gorgeous in the summer, but there are no students there.”
In other words, Queen’s alums now feel cheated of the opportunity to reconnect with their undergraduate experiences and with university friends. At Harvard, by contrast, we seem so attached to the act of binge drinking that every new tailgate regulation strikes us as a human rights violation. Surely we’re missing the point.
As the College has increasingly complied with the City of Boston—and tightened the screw on the tailgate—it’s compensated undergrads handsomely, offering money and latitude to enhance the weekend in ways less likely to land them in jail. In 2006, the College Events Board (CEB) sponsored three massive parties in dining halls across campus the night before The Game. Last night, the current crop of CEB members put its putative predecessors to shame by bringing Girl Talk to Harvard Yard. Tighter restrictions on room parties be damned—infusing thousands of Yalies and Harvard alums into the Square can only mean that tonight and tomorrow will be a circus.
By keeping things in check—and the BPD happy—Harvard stands to stay the Queen’s-style execution of one of our most (and least) memorable traditions. As for the College’s most obstreperous kvetch-ers—take a deep breath, your pathos is showing.
Adam Goldenberg ’08 is a former Crimson editorial editor and a former chair of the College Events Board.