Sorry Competitions

Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing --Vince Lombardi

HARVARD STUDENTS are a bit above this, although you might not always think so. Student organizations hold "comps" (or "punches") to weed out the unqualified. Students compete against each other for fellowships, grants, grades. A few students rip pages out of important reference books, or highlight them in black magic marker.

It is a mistake to think that Harvard students are merely competitive creatures. Some volunteer for Phillips Brooks House, others are peer counselors, still others work on CityStep. Almost everyone has, at one time or another worked cooperatively on a problem set, a paper proposal, an oral presentation.

Ecolympics and the Football to Fenway contests are good case studies for examining this phenomenon.

CASE ONE: Ecolympics.


According to a recent report by the Office of Physical Operations, the University saved $450,000 last year in heating costs. The report attributed most of the reduction to the efforts of the Phillips Brooks House Environmental Action Committee (EAC), according to Samuel A. Newell '92.

EAC sponsored the Ecolympics, a contest that rewarded the houses and Yard dorms that reduced their energy consumption by a certain percentage each month with Ben and Jerry's ice cream parties.

Most months, just about every house got these ice cream parties. Few houses were denied the treat. Energy was saved, ice cream was enjoyed, and all was good.

This winter, free ice cream will be much harder to come by. Brett R. Huff '93, Ecolympics director, says that only the top three houses each month will get B&J bashes.

"We are trying to make it more of a competition this year," Huff says.

Of course, Ecolympics wasn't very competitive last year. Almost everyone got ice cream. But that's one reason why the contest worked as well as it did.

Frequent ice cream bashes raised student awareness of the problem by reminding them that they should conserve energy. Posting charts in dining halls and publishing results in The Crimson also spread the gospel, but did not attract nearly the interest of Rain Forest Crunch and Cherry Garcia ice cream.

Ice cream was a key to Ecolympic's success--not as an end, but as a means. The EAC would be wise to leave the Rain Forest Crunch alone if it wants to keep people interested.

CASE TWO: From Football to Fenway.

The Athletic Department is holding a contest which rewards the house or Yard dorms that have the greatest percentage of residents attending football games with free tickets to the Red Sox home opener.

Recommended Articles