An exotic far-off getaway, regional food, loud drumming, and more chocolate candy than you could eat in a year—there’s something for everyone at Harvard’s annual Student Activities Fair. This event, which was held last Friday in the remodeled Student Organization Center at Hilles and the Radcliffe Quad, is the official introduction of first-years to Harvard’s 450 registered student organizations.
The annual Activities Fair serves an important purpose on Harvard’s campus—after all, how else would you know that Harvard has a Half-Asian People’s Association, a Klezmer band, or a Wisconsin Club? It’s certainly exciting to see the majority of Harvard’s extracurricular organizations enthusiastically proponing their activities and mailing lists, and the oh-so-useful-Student Organization Center whose name no student knows how to pronounce is a good venue to admire the diversity of Harvard students’ pursuits. And of course, as any student knows, the Activities Fair is an ideal place to acquire a plethora of free merchandise and fun-sized Snickers bars.
Indeed, the Activities Fair is one of the occasions that brings nearly every Harvard undergraduate together. However, this is largely because nearly all dining halls are closed, forcing upperclassmen as well as first-years to walk to the Quad for a “Taste of Boston Dinner” at the Activities Fair.
Although sampling cuisine from the North End and Chinatown is great, this arrangement seems unnecessary. In effort to make future Activities Fairs less crowded, we would recommend that Harvard University Dining Services keep house dining halls open during future Activity Fairs. Other simple fixes, like an improved arrangement of tables and an online guide to table locations, would also make the Fair less hectic. Lastly, we understand the excitement and spirit of competition that inspires students to aggressive hand out information to all who pass by their organizations’ tables. However, for the sake of making the Activities Fair a bit less stressful for everyone, we wish student organizations’ representatives would refrain from such aggressive leafletting.
Beyond the Activities Fair, the Office of Student Life could do a lot to make the student organizations scene more understandable, accessible, and navigable for freshmen. With hundreds of different student organizations, it’s understandable that newcomers often feel overwhelmed and confused in their first few weeks at Harvard. If there were an easily searchable online database of organizations that included updated information about their first meetings, first-years (and older students looking to join new groups) would not have to depend on an incomplete Guide to Get Involved Weekend website that was last updated weeks before school started. A version of the Q guide for student organizations, or another organized database of information about student groups, would also be useful.
It’s now the middle of September, a honeymoon period for first-year students; they just are beginning to discover the extracurricular activities where they can find close communities, and have not yet become frustrated enough to unsubscribe from three-quarters of the email lists they’ve signed up for. We wish first-years the best of luck in their search for student organizations to join—and hope that you all discover, sooner rather than later, that you should really just comp The Crimson.