HRE Blues


To the Editors of The Crimson:

As members of two of Harvard's a capella groups, we appreciated the tongue-in-cheek humor of Philip M. Rubin's attack on the a capella music scene in his article "It's Muzak to My Ears." It is true that a capella groups are prolific posterers, and try to keep a high profile on campus, but we would, of course, question the author's sweeping statements about our musicality. We enjoy the music that we make, and are happy to have the chance to perform.

Rubin's remarks do touch on one point of substance, and that is the frequency and regularity with which a capella concerts are held in Sanders Theater. It does seem odd that one genre of student activity would dominate Sanders, which in terms of size and acoustics is undeniably the best performance space at Harvard. There is, however, a simple reason for this.

Once a student group has reserved Sanders for a performance, a difficult process in itself, it must deal with the rapacious policies of Harvard Real Estate (HRE), which rents performance space to student groups at very high rates. For an a capella concert, a one-night affair, it is affordable to rent Sanders, since the unique atmosphere justifies the large expense. However, renting Sanders for a play or concert is impratical, for over the course of a several-night run, there is very little hope of breaking even. It is a shame that a space with as much history and ambience as Sanders is closed to many undergraduates who are artists with the same desire to perform in front of large audiences.

At the heart of the issue lies HRE, which controls the use of Sanders, as well as many other facilities on campus. HRE rents Sanders to many organizations with no connection to Harvard whose budgets are far beyond those of student organizations. No special consideration is given to student organizations, despite the fact that Sanders is one of only two large performance halls open to undergraduates.

Instead it would seem that HRE is solely concerned with filling Harvard's already brimming coffers at the expense of students whose interests they are supposed to be serving. Stephen Fleming '93   Lesley Weaver '92