The room is a sea of drunk and rowdy humanity. Music blares from the stereo as people jockey for position around a fast-emptying keg of beer. No, it is not a clearance sale at the corner bar: this is the scene on many weekends at Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), Harvard's only fraternity.
The party life has not always gone smoothly since SAE reopened its doors in 1973, after they had been closed for two years due to lack of student interest.
At the beginning of the 1975 fall term, membership plummeted to four people, because most members had graduated the previous spring, and the fraternity was deeply in debt.
A recruiting drive managed to bring SAE's membership back to its former level of 30 men and put SAE on firmer financial ground. And the fraternity boasts 30 members' gain this year, about evenly split among the upper three classes.
The fraternity serves as "a real alternative to social clubs," Kip Smith '77, treasurer and former president of SAE, said earlier this week. Anyone can afford the $30 per semester membership fee, he added.
There is less need for fraternities at Harvard than at other schools, Smith said. At places like Dartmouth there is no other social life outside the fraternities, he said, but Harvard has all of Boston.
Fraternities at other Boston area schools serve as alternative housing, but Harvard students may not live in fraternities, Smith said. SAE is a place to go "to get away from Harvard," he added.
Tom Shea '77, president of SAE, said Monday he "sort of doubts" new fraternities will form at Harvard.
Fraternities are national organizations, but Harvard "requires undergraduate organizations to be autonomous," Archie C. Epps III, dean of students, said a few days ago.
Epps said the University made an exception to this rule in the 1950s, when SAE satisfied officials that it was not tied to the national organization. SAE members can join the national organization for life with a one-time payment of $100, but they can belong locally without a national membership.
The initiation rites of some fraternities are another reason Epps is "skeptical" about recognizing new fraternities, he said.
Shea said SAE has pledge projects such as fixing up the fraternity house in place of "hazings."