Although the 49 students chosen to have afternoon tea with Charles, Prince of Wales, will have only about 30 seconds to discuss their common interest with Harvard's royal guest, some of those not invited to the meeting are complaining that the selection process was unfair.
"Apparently [the selection] was done clandestinely," said Rebekah L. Causey '88-'89, who is here working dorm crew for the 350th. "They should have given all the students an equal chance."
At the end of his two-day visit to Harvard, Prince Charles will speak personally with undergraduate and graduate students who "share an interest with the Prince," a Harvard press spokesman said.
The Prince will meet the students in the garden behind Gund Hall. For Charles it will be the end of a day filled with a keynote speech, a gala luncheon and a symposium on city architecture. For the student body it will be the only meeting of its members with the main attraction of the 350th celebration.
University deans during the summer selected students who shared at least one of six broad interests with the Prince: music, student government, polo-type athletics, third-world countries, architecture and design, and British nationality or time spent studying in the United Kingdom.
University Marshall Richard M. Hunt said he and the British consulate wanted to ensure that "some of the conversations with the Prince would have some focus."
Organizers said students were not able to apply to meet the Prince because it was not known until late July that the Prince's schedule would allow him to meet with students.
Because students were not on campus when the Prince's schedule was finalized in July, the University tried on short notice to find those students who would be in town, Hunt said.
The exclusiveness of the categories of interest has also drawn criticism from those not involved in those areas.
"Since there's been so much emphasis on the great changes that have occurred at Harvard in the last 50 years, I think it is ironic that the University is continuing the kind of elitist practices of the previous 300 years," said Carl T. Robbins '86-'87.
"If we had known in May [that the Prince would meet with students], it could have been done in a more systematic way," Hunt said.
Hunt acknowledged that the selection was "done as rapidly as possible" because of the short notice organizers had of the possibility of a meeting with students. "However, we tried to be as representative as possible among those students who were going to be around [at the 350th]," he said.
Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III said that the 26 undergraduates attending the tea were "fairly representative of the College."
"In the best possible world I guess there would have been a more democratic process of selection," said Undergraduate Council Chairman Brian C. Offutt '87, one of those picked. "But given the lack of time they had and the inability to know who would be around in early September, the best possible method was undertaken."
"Unfortunately, because deans cannot know all their students, if you're going to have a process such as this with deans picking people, the pool will be limited," Offutt said.
The select 49 were informed by invitation in early August that they had been chosen to attend the tea with Charles. For most it was an unexpected though pleasant surprise.
"It wasn't public knowledge that he was going to meet with undergraduates," Offutt said. "People just received invitations and said, 'Wow, I'd like to go.'"
"It's not every day you meet a prince," said Cristina V. Coletta '87, co-organizer of the College's 350th celebration in October, who was also invited to tea. In preparation for the meeting she said she has bought a new dress and brushed up on her etiquette.
"It certainly is a shame that more students will not be able to meet him personally," Coletta said. However, Coletta dismissed complaints by some of the students who weren't chosen. "It's up to the 350th office to preselect if they feel that choosing people with whom the Prince would have something in common will make his visit more enjoyable."