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350th Gala Criticized For Unjust Selectivity

Angry, Oblivious

By Kristin A. Goss

The upcoming student celebration of Harvard's 350th anniversary promises a lunch with a renowned historian, a formal dinner with a U.S. Supreme Court justice, a tea with the secretary of education and another lunch with two well-known writers.

What it doesn't promise is a ticket to those four events for more than nine out of 10 undergraduates. And the grumbling has begun--among the few who are aware of the 11 College-wide festivities scheduled to commemorate Harvard's founding.

While most undergraduates will be able to attend several of the events planned for the six-day celebration, including a black-tie ball and a bandstand concert, the principal organizer of the event, Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III, said it was simply impossible, logistically and financially, to include everyone in all events.

In addition, organizers of the October 6-12 gala, which will cost in the neighborhood of $140,000, said the bulk of the celebration will take place in the houses, where celebrated alumni or affiliates will give symposia, dine with students or perform.

Still, many students have criticized what they call the heart of the event for being unjustly exclusive. Epps said charges that undergraduates will remain on the periphery of the party were "surprising, but not fair or accurate."

Still, some house committee chairmen, all of whom were invited to the special 350th dinner, were so concerned about exclusivity that they considered not going to the formal affair, which will be held in Memorial Hall to honor house masters and senior tutors.

At Dunster House, the house committee introduced a half-joking resolution to hold a "scuz fest" for the up to 2000 undergraduates who did not get tickets to the 350th black-tie ball. The Southern Africa Solidarity Committee is making plans to hold an alternate dance, while Winthrop House is considering a house party for students who could not get tickets to the fete.

In addition, the Leverett House Committee last night unanimously passed a resolution expressing disappointment with the celebration (see accompanying story). The president and several other executives of The Crimson will not accept invitations to exclusive events.

But, despite $2000 worth of full-page advertisements in The Crimson and a program mailed to every undergraduate at the end of August, a random survey of scores of undergraduates over the last several days revealed a lack of knowledge about the College-wide events slated to start October 8. For most students, awareness of the 350th was limited to the ball and their special house events because those invitations have been distributed.

Those who were aware of the full celebration said they were frustrated that theyhad little chance of attending the morestar-studded gatherings, which will feature, amongother luminaries, Associate Justice Harry A.Blackmun '29, Secretary of Education William J.Bennett, writer James Atlas '71 and historianRichard Norton Smith '59.

"I don't think people are so familiar with it.I think people aren't aware about what they're notinvited to," said Cabot House Chairman Lori E.Lesser '88.

"What I noticed automatically was that half ofthe things were by invitation only," said CamilleL. Landau '90, who worked on the 350th celebrationearlier this month for alumni and selectedundergraduates. "I'm getting into a syndrome whereI feel like I'm never going to be invited."

"There are too many things that sound reallyexciting, but when you get to the bottom, it says'by invitation only,' " said Richard Zayas '88,former treasurer of the Undergraduate Council.

Invitation lists to the events were drawn up byEpps' office although the envelopes have not goneout yet. Still to reach the mailbox areinvitations to the luncheon with Harvard writers,the tea with Bennett and the luncheon after theCornell football game. About half of the 300student invitations to the 350th dinner have goneout, and Epps said the rest would go out later.

"I've tried to get as many undergraduates tothe events as possible," said Anita Ramasastry'88, a member of the 11-member steering committeewho has helped draw up the guest lists.

The criteria for guests was involvement inactivities that were related to the event. Forexample, Epps said that about 60 writers for theAdvocate, Padan Aram, the Lampoon, theIndependent, the Signet and The Crimson would beinvited to the luncheon honoring Harvard writers.

"It seems to me reasonable to make someselection on the basis of established interest andto try to match activities with certain events,"said Epps, noting that he was "sorting out ascarce resource."

Students said they are grateful that theCollege has tried to compensate them for theirexclusion from the four-day, million-dollarbirthday extravaganza held for alumni during thetail end of summer recess. Indeed, Epps, his twostudent co-chairmen and the steering committeespent the better part of the spring and summerplanning the event. Still some undergraduatesinterviewed said they feared the party for thestudents might turn into a party for the few.

According to Epps, about 500 of the College'sroughly 6300 students will be invited to the fourby-invitation-only events.

"I think a lot of undergraduates feltdefinitely excluded at the regular 350th and thatHarvard's doing the same thing all over again,"said one campus leader who asked not to beidentified.

"This is planned because most undergraduatesweren't here during the 350th. But [theinvitation-only events] are certainly a problem.I'm glad the issue is being raised. I hope it'snot at the stage where adjustments can't be made,"said North House Master J. Woodland Hastings.

"It's a gross example of the elitism thatHarvard is famous for," said Charles W. Dupree'89.

"What is Harvard saying to those students whoare not invited?" asked Richard Chavez '87, headof the Catholic Students Association.

But some students agreed with Epps that thecharges were unfair.

"I don't think you can jump on someone's backfor offering something and criticize them for notoffering it to everyone," said C.F. David Boit'90.

Said Winthrop House Master James A. Davis: "Ithink there are more important problems facing theUniversity. It's obviously regrettable, butobviously a function of physical space. No onemeant to be exclusionary."

Many students said they too sympathized withthe logistical problems the University faced.

Besides knocking the exclusivity of the moreunusual events, students said they were concernedabout the timing of the celebration--which nips onthe heels of the most important Jewish holiday--aswell as the cost of the ball.

"I think it's not convenient because a lot ofJews are going to be travelling home to theirfamilies that weekend," said David A. Nacht '87.The celebration falls between Rosh Hashanah andYom Kippur, which begins at sundown October 12,the last day of events.

"I can't be there. I've been trying to work outall different plans, but it didn't work. I'm goinghome Friday night," said Ethan A. Budin '90.

Yet, others said the festivities areconveniently scheduled because October 11, thenight of the ball, is the only weekend night ofthe month that is not a Jewish holiday. They saidthe scheduling will present problems only forthose who wish to spend the long Columbus Day andYom Kippur weekend at home.

For the most part, however, student attentionhas focused on the ball since many returned toschool to find that the highlight of thefestivities was sold out.

The steering committee printed 3500 $15tickets, enough to accommodate roughly half of thestudent body. And, said organizers, the chiefconcern was that there would not be enoughinterest in the dance featuring Lester Lanin'ssociety orchestra, catered food and tents in theYard.

In late August, the College mailed invitationsto all students telling them to order theirtickets promptly because the supply was limited.Last week, the ball sold out, but, after studentcomplaints, Epps announced that an additional 1000tickets would be available and distributed througha lottery held today.

"We just didn't expect this reaction. Weexpected the opposite," said Sylvia M. Matthews'87, a member of the steering committee. Epps toosaid the strong interest surprised him.

But one student leader who will attend the ballsaid: "Dean Epps said he wasn't expecting a largeturnout. But that's the point. They should beplanning an event where they expect a largeturnout."

According to Cristina V. Coletta '87, one ofthe undergraduate 350th's two student organizers,the committee calculated potential attendancebased on participation in house formals and finalclub membership, among other factors. In addition,the number of invitations was limited by thephysical site of the ball, to be held in theMemorial Hall courtyard, where a similar fete tookplace at the College's 300th anniversary.

The price tag was set at $15 because organizerswanted the event to pay for itself. Coletta saidbetween $80,000 and $100,000 would be spent on theball. Other portions of the exclusive festivitieswere financed by donations from organizationsincluding BayBanks ($5000), AT&T ($13,000), theCambridge Trust Company ($1000) and the College($10,000-$15,000).

Epps said that the organizers considered theIndoor Track and Tennis Center at one point butrejected it because they wanted "a more elegantevent."

But an elegant event meant black-tie only, ahigher price tag and fewer people. Some studentssaid they were upset about the price and theattire requirements.

"There are some friends I know who can't doit," said Ivars G. Kuskevics '90, who has a ticketto the event.

Said Michael L. Goldenberg '88, a formercouncil member: "The criticism of the ball is avery valid thing. A lot of people are having[financial] problems with the ball."

Others termed "elitist" the decision to hold anevent which not everyone could attend.

"If this is our chance to shine and have a goodtime, then it doesn't make sense that onlyone-half can go," said one student who asked notto be identified.

"This whole ball business bothers me. If it'sfor undergraduates, all should be able to attend,"said Lowell Master William H. Bossert '59.

Other students complained that the Harvard Clubof Boston was given reservations on 500 tickets,given that the University already threw the alumnia party.

Organizers said that they did not considerthrowing a bigger but less formal event becausethey wanted something significant. "We wanted tohave something extra special and dress up becausethe 350th comes along only once," said Coletta.

The logistical preparations for the event havetaken Coletta the summer. But what organizers didnot count on was a run in with the BusinessSchool.

Organizers of that school's 25th reunioncelebration had reserved Memorial Hall three yearsago, and plans were underway to have the about 800participants stroll through the Yard on their wayfrom the Charles Hotel to Memorial Hall. But nowthe B-School must bus the celebrants from one siteto another, sources said, to avoid throngs ofundergraduates in the Yard.

While student eyes are on the much-publicizedball, administrators and organizers are touting asthe real crux of the celebration the more intimatehouse dinners and symposia.

Students at some houses are lucky enough tohave dinners with the pugnacious author NormanMailer '43, famed cellist Yo Yo Ma '76 orworld-famous composer Leonard Bernstein '39.

"I feel lucky," said Dunster House ChairmanFernando R. Laguarda '88, who will attend a dinnerwith Mailer.

But fame and fortune eluded some houses.

At Kirkland House, a next-door neighbor--EliotHouse Master Alan E. Heimert '49--plans to walkover for dinner.

Lowell House residents will get a video screenfor a presentation of a film on Harvard as well asthe recorded reminiscences of late Master ElliottPerkins. Mather House will hear a speech by formerDean of the Faculty Henry Rosovsky, while AdamsHouse will enjoy performances by current and pasthouse tutors.

"I understand there are discrepancies," saidMatthews, who was on the steering committee andhelped coordinate the house activities. "There arediscrepancies in who famous graduates from eachhouse."

"The whole idea is one that we're to exposestudents to the many things that Harvardproduces," Matthews said, pointing to Currierguest Julia Agoos '79 as an "up and coming" poet.

Masters said ideally they would have liked moretime to discuss and plan house events with theirrespective house committees. And some studentssaid they wished the College had not gone just tohouse committee chairmen, but to the undergraduatepopulation at large, with its invitation to takepart in the planning.

But Epps said he has been throwing around theidea of an undergraduate celebration for about ayear, and that, at least initially, there was"only a trickle of interest."

He said he began serious consultations withhouse committee chairmen, house masters,administrators and the student-faculty Committeeon College Life last spring. At that time, Eppsformed a committee of5CrimsonAndrea L. RobertsCelebration Co-Chairman CRISTINA V. COLETTA'87: "We wanted to have something extraspecial."

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