Perspective's imminent move from the basement of Memorial Hall inspired in us the insight that the biggest issue in the upcoming academic year will be the quality of student social life.
Harvard need to be more fun, and not just for final club members.
The move will be the result of the gutting and remodeling of the Hall itself, which will become a student commons. But a few meeting rooms and a new Greenhouse, or whatever it is that will replace our office, will not come close to addressing the social needs which Harvard students have begun to express. Our office ain't that big.
Leading the charge in the battle for more fun at Harvard has been Women Appealing for Change. If nothing else, these final club boycotters have succeeded in bringing to the fore an issue which Harvard administrators are always trying to sweep under the rug. But WAC's position has never been an extreme one. By and large these women are not concerned with violence, chauvinism and elitism (issues, alas, which will continue to be underemphasized this year). Indeed, these are the same women that have gladly patronized the clubs in the past. Their main interest is access, access to an organized social group.
And this certainly is an issue. It is not easy to have a fun party in a 12 x 12 common room. In most student suites, more than 15 people is synonymous with sauna. Furthermore, there is a justifiable psychological need to spend one's leisure time outside one's place of study. Partying while surrounded by bookshelves full of Kant and Foucault can definitely put a damper on the mood.
Philos, the first attempt at a coed alternative to final clubs, is faltering, but, with luck, may find its legs. And another co-ed group is in the formative stages, having already solicited the aid of Dean Epps in finding a place to meet. Such groups and the discussion they generate will be a driving force in the increasing issuehood of undergraduate social life, but other events will contribute as well. The new Massachusetts alcohol laws are so strict that Project ADD, the alcohol and drug abuse peer counselors, have been prevented from talking to first-year proctor groups. Backlash against such stupidity and Project ADD's upcoming alcohol awareness week (rumored to coincide with `no kegs at Harvard week') will probably provoke debate.
But without a doubt the biggest campus-related event of the upcoming year will be the fall semester's Fly Club punch, the first co-ed punch by any of the final clubs. Whether co-ed or not, the final clubs, well established, centrally located and well funded, have a better chance for longevity than other social clubs; the Fly is likely to be representative of the future of organized social life at Harvard. It will be interesting to see whether the admission of women will make the club more egalitarian generally. Will the punch remain closed to most students, or will the club open up the punch, seek Harvard recognition and somehow try to integrate itself positively into the community? Frankly, the former option seems the more probable.
But there is hope for a true social revolution, or at least social progress, at Harvard. If the Dean of Students can be persuaded to help with a housing search for new social clubs, perhaps the University can be persuaded to help solicit funds from concerned alumni. In fact, taking other schools as a pattern, Harvard could (gasp!) build a legitimate student center or perhaps even buy a bar and make it 18 and over. What the heck, we already own a $25 million share in the House of Blues. All that is required is a little motivation or, in the case of the bar, a lot of motivation. Expect to see the beginnings of such motivation in upcoming months.
Josh Feltman is President of The Perspective.