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AT THE same time that Harvard boasts to prospective students of the wide variety of musical and theatrical offerings on campus, Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III consciously tries to limit the number of student arts groups. The reason? He says there is not enough rehearsal and performance space to accomodate growing student interest in the arts.
The solution is not to stunt such interest. It should be to build or find the needed space. In the short-term, Harvard should decrease the cost to student groups of performing in Harvard-affiliated properties, and administrators should stop playing favorites for the little space available.
In trying to attract outside performance groups to Sanders Theater, Harvard Real Estate--which manages Harvard's non-academic facilities--hired technical advisors, ushers and piano movers. HRE now charges student organizations exorbitant fees for the use of the professionalized theater--even for rehearsals. Rate increases of up to 300 percent may soon price poorer student groups out of the market altogether.
That is, if those student groups are let into the market by Epps. By favoring old established groups like the Glee Club, the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra and the Krokodiloes for performance space, Epps creates unnecessary friction and envy among student musical groups.
HARVARD has made only minor plans to remedy the shortage of performance space. Promises of an improved Sanders Theater and construction of a third floor at the Loeb will temporarily mitigate the shortage, but these may not be enough. If Harvard wants to address seriously the shortage of performance space on campus, it should take the following steps:
. The Memorial Hall renovations should include room for more than the one rehearsal space currently planned.
. Undergraduate theater organizations should have access to the soon-to-be constructed third floor of the Loeb Theater.
. The responsibility for allocating performance space among student groups should be taken out of the hands of Epps, who has demonstrated his unwillingness to treat all groups fairly. Instead, decisions should be made by a student-faculty committee on the basis of groups' artistic merit and potential ability to attract crowds.
. HRE should stop treating Sanders Theater like Boston Garden. HRE should be less concerned with making profits by attracting professional performers and more concerned with using Harvard property for the benefit of Harvard students. As the prime performance space for undergraduate groups, the Sanders Theater should be available to these student groups for a nominal cost. At the absolute least, HRE should provide different options for student groups--if a group doesn't need technical advisors and piano movers, it should not have to pay for them.
A diversity of extracurricular arts and music groups with access to plentiful rehearsal and performance space is a worthy goal. A new undergraduate performing arts center may very well be the only long-term solution to the performing arts crisis.
If Harvard wants to continue to brag about the diversity of the performing arts on campus, it needs to put its money where its mouth is.
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