Students Embrace Annenberg As Nighttime Hangout

A group of players huddle around four Scrabble boards near the back of Annenberg. As dozens of students enjoyed a typical Tuesday night Brain Break, the Harvard College Scrabble Club quietly held its first-ever meeting in Annenberg Hall.

Since the College extended the hours that Annenberg is open to students in mid-September, some freshmen say they have been taking advantage of the later hours.

Matt J. Pawlowski ’15, who helped organize Tuesday night’s scrabble, said the club chose Annenberg as a meeting spot because of its open space, central location, and large tables. Without Annenberg, Pawlowski said the club would probably meet in a smaller freshman dorm common room or an upperclassmen house.

Attendance figures show that since Annenberg extended its hours to stay open from 4:30 p.m. to midnight five days a week, between 200 and 300 freshmen have swiped into Annenberg each night, with attendance figures reaching close to 400 on several occasions, according to Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Jeff Neal.

But Annenberg officials have not distinguished between students arriving during the new hours and traditional brain break hours.

“The program just launched and it is too early to fully determine its overall success,” Neal wrote in an emailed statement. “The College will examine the program at a later date to develop a fuller understanding.”

Neal added that the extended hours have thus far been deemed successful.

Students interviewed in Annenberg said that they visit the dining hall for brain break and then stay for the extended hours. Some also said they use the space to study in the hours after brain break ends.

Joshua S. Chmara ’15 said he stops by Annenberg every night, usually with a group of friends to get a snack.

He said he usually stops by during brain break and has only been in the dining hall once or twice after 11 p.m.

While students say they appreciate having Annenberg as an option, they say it has drawbacks as a study space.

“It’s too noisy here. I can’t really work here,” Richard A. Lopez ’15 said. “If I’m going to do work I don’t really want to be in an environment that’s going to distract me.”

Annenberg’s extended hours are part of a larger effort by the College to increase social spaces for students on campus. Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67 explained that the extension is the result of student feedback and consultation, particularly with the Freshmen Space Working Group—a group of students and administrators charged last year with brainstorming ways to enhance social spaces for freshmen.

The group originally suggested extending Annenberg’s hours in a report to Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds last spring.

Dingman explained that a lack of social space can hurt a class’s sense of community.

“You’re here primarily to pursue your scholarly aims, but I think you can be more effective if you take some breaks from the academic rigor of the place,” Dingman said.

He added that administrators recognize that Annenberg is not the end-all social space.

“I don’t think it meets all of the needs that students have expressed,” said Dingman of Annenberg. “That doesn’t come as a surprise to us. Students over time have said that they’d like a room that’s really comfortable where you can kick back ... Those options just don’t exist in Annenberg.”

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