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Cancel the Head? Well, Not This Year

By Matthew J. Mcdonald

Old regattas don't die, they just keep going, and going, and going and going...

Overcoming administration angst, mayoral meddling and the Massachusetts fiscal crisis, the logistically nightmarish annual aquatic bash known as the Head of the Charles is back.

But only after surviving a few tough qualifying heats.

First, the Harvard administration offered a few rumblings at the beginning of the year about cancelling the Head.

Next, officials of the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), the state agency responsible for organizing the Head, warned that the state budget axe could leave the agency understaffed, forcing it to provide a significantly smaller police presence than in previous years.

That got Cambridge Mayor Alice K. Wolf into the fray. Fearing a chaotic mess, the mayor asked City Manager Robert W. Healy to investigate whether there would be enough police and maintenance personnel to keep the regatta under control.

Water, Water Everywhere...

All that is, as they say, water under the bridge. The administration scrapped plans to scuttle the Head, the expected budget cuts have been delayed, BayBanks has offered the Head an unprecedented corporate sponsorship and the mayor is apparently satisfied.

However, this year's 26th edition of the Head will feature several new regulations, which have come about in order to rectify past problems and satisfy the shifting tides of university philosophy.

In addition to the long-standing ban on public alcohol possession and consumption, race organizers this year are prohibiting commercial vendors, a move which they hope will "promote a clean and hazard-free environment."

Also, the College's new alcohol policy--which prohibits College affiliates from serving alcohol to underage students in both private and public settings--is in effect. College officials said that they expect that the new rules will be enforced throughout the Head of the Charles weekend.

But the more the winds of change shift, the more the Head luffs.

The gates of Harvard Yard and all the main gates to the River Houses will once again be locked from 6 p.m. on Friday until 4 p.m. Sunday. Entry to dorms will once again require a Harvard I.D. And undergraduates may once again bring in only one guest, whom they may house only with the express written permission of Major, their house office.

Despite the pre-Head hassles, crew participants are excited about their upcoming place in the water.

"There's no more exhilarating feeling than stroking through the finish and looking up into a sea of faces waving and cheering," said second-year law student Sean T. Brady '89.

Brady, who is rowing with the HLS contingent for the second straight year, also said he doubted that the plethora of new regulations would significantly alter the atmosphere of the event.

"No matter what the University does, 200,000 people are still going to come," said Brady. "And no matter what they say about conduct at the Head, about eight of those people will actually be watching the race."

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