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Students Suffer On Head Weekend

By The CRIMSON Staff

Head of the Charles. Once, the name evoked images of pristine waters, Harvard insignia and the intense expressions of rowers as they maneuvered wooden oars through glistening waves.

But today's reality is, alas, much different from the boatfests of yore. In recent years, the regatta has turned into a weekend of drinking and attempted debauchery for prep-school students who swarm to the banks of the Charles. Ask any of them about which university won which race, and they probably won't be able to give you a sober answer.

This past weekend, Harvard once again barricaded its gates in anticipation of the onslaught of spectators. And once again, Harvard students paid the price.

The gates of Harvard Yard and the houses were locked starting at 4 p.m. Saturday until the late hours of Sunday afternoon. Admittance was restricted to those with Harvard IDs, who were allowed to bring in one registered guest each. Woe to those who actually had more than one guest: they were out of luck, pure and simple. Even visiting parents weren't allowed to break the University's sacrosanct rules.

Harvard's typically lackluster social life was effectively extinguished for the weekend by the stipulation that all "social gatherings" must be registered with the Freshman Dean's Office or house office. Large parties were banned, and alcohol deliveries to the houses were not permitted.

According to Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III, such drastic measures are necessary because of adverse past experiences at Head of the Charles. "In the past people have used the College grounds as bathrooms, and people have slept in corridors and the like," he told The Crimson.

But ironically, the reasons for all the tightened security measures and restrictions have very little to do with Harvard students themselves. "Generally the problems occur when individuals from all over the country and the world start roaming around Harvard Square looking for something to do," Harvard University Police Officer Lawrence S. Murphy said.

The administration's concerns are understandable. But as long as students are being asked for identification upon entering houses, house life should not be inhibited--Harvard parties for Harvard students should continue unabated. As long as destructive non-Harvardians are locked out of the houses, we should be allowed to keep the kegs coming. No student should be allowed to bring in a posse of non-Harvard guests, but parents of Harvard students should not be inconvenienced.

No one likes the idea of non-Harvardians gleefully stumbling around the Yard in a drunken haze and urinating on the steps of Memorial Church, or the thought of someone vomiting in a House courtyard. Still, it's downright frustrating to feel as if every year your college life must be put on hold while visitors descend upon the Charles.

The people who do seem most enthused about Head of the Charles are those who own businesses in Harvard Square. This past weekend, hotels were booked, restaurants had hour-long waits, and bars were just plain madhouses. But with lines outside the Crimson Sports Grille and the Spaghetti Club extending into JFK Street, it perhaps was a better idea to slouch back home, instead.

Ultimately, however, there is very little Harvard students can do about Head of the Charles weekend. The administration wrote to more than two hundred private high schools and colleges in the area, explaining that Harvard cannot accommodate all of their students, but measures like that are basically ineffective. Students from all over the country will still come to the regatta, and they'll still overrun Harvard Square, whether their Harvard peers have midterm exams or not.

Other than either locking themselves up in their rooms or making a mass exodus from Boston, Harvard students will certainly have to deal with the repercussions of the weekend. But the University shouldn't be able to shut down campus life due to the debaucheries of drunken prep-school kids wandering about in the Square.

It's a shame that the yearly regatta has turned into nothing more than an annual convention of horny high schoolers. But like the once pure waters of the Charles, the weekend has degenerated into a beer-soaked, overly crowded mess.

Nonetheless, it's not the fault of Harvard undergraduates, and we shouldn't have to pay the price.

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