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The oft-bemoaned social life of Harvard's graduate students is likely to get a big shot in the arm this fall.
This October, Dudley House will open as the official student center for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS).
Dudley was once the holding pen for transfer students and a haven for off-campus undergraduates. Its conversion to a graduate student center began last year when the College administration decided to place transferees directly into the house system.
"Graduate students complained that their involvement in the Harvard community often did not go beyond the boundaries of their particular departments.," says Dudley House Master Paul D. Hanson. "They lacked a social and cultural structure. Dudley House tries to integrate the academic, social and cultural lives of graduate students and build bridges between the diverse departments."
Hanson, who will retain his position as house master after the conversion, says international students who constitute 30 percent of GSAS's population often feel the isolation of graduate life most acutely and will benefit from the new social center.
Some graduate students agree with Hanson, adding that the creation of a student center will be of tremendous help for all students who might feel removed from the community.
"The nature of graduate work is very individual oriented," says Peng "Ben" Wang, a fourth-year graduate student in Cellular Developmental Biology. "The graduate center should serve to bring different graduate students together, to bring in fresh ideas to refresh people's lives."
The new plan is not without its critics, however. Some grad students who knew Dudley House in its former life say that the unique attraction of Dudley was the possibility of interacting with undergrads.
Although more than 100 College students will choose to remain affiliated with the house, that number will most likely continue to decline in future numbers.
"I think [making Dudley House a graduate center] is bad," says Jeff P. Moran, a graduate student in American History. "It's bad, in part, because the persistent belief among undergraduates is that graduate students are bathed in leopard spit, especially when they are teaching."
Other Dudley critics say the creation of a graduate student center is too little too late. And though Dudley's benefit to international and first-year graduate students is indisputable, many students who have already established networks of friends doubt the center will be of any use to them.
"I'm in my fourth year and I've already dealt with [adjusting]," says Jeff P. Melnick who is in the American Civilization program. "My adjustment might have been facilitated if Dudley was for graduate students then."
Same Name, New Character
Although Dudley House will keep its name and its master, major renovations could significantly alter the character of Lehman Hall.
In addition to making merely cosmetic changes, including the conversion of the "Senior Common Room" into the "Fireside Reading Room," Dudley House is transforming a section of Lehman Hall's basement into a coffee shop. The cafe--with a price tag of $40,000--will serve coffee and pastries into the late hours.
The house will also feature a new $11,000 computer room which will remain open until midnight.
The dining hall, too, will add a bistro accent to its food, and stay open on weekends.
Besides changes in Lehman, Dudley House as an institution will offer more structured student events, Hanson says. Planned for the upcoming months are a Red Sox baseball trip, an apple picking outing and in-house musical concerts.
With all the events and changes planned, Hanson says he believes many more graduate students will find their way to the southwest corner of the Yard.
"I hope the bricks start popping," says Hanson. "The sign of success is when you've run out of space."
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