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All HYPEd Up

By Corinne E. Funk

I have to admit that my first impression of HYPE '96 was not a very favorable one. I was rudely awakened early Saturday morning to the sound of hammering and upon peering out of Winthrop House noticed that a large stage was being built right underneath my window. I was able to drift back to sleep for a little while, only to be awakened again by a repeated test of a very powerful audio system. My roommates and I--and no doubt countless dorm inhabitants around us--cursed and spat for a while and decided that if we had anything to do with it, HYPE '96 would meet a swift and sudden death.

Once I actually made it down to the MAC Quad, however, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the the Institute of Politics' day-long Harvard Youth for Political Empowerment carnival-cum-rally. It was something very rare at Harvard--a well-organized, thoughtfully-planned, color-coordinated event that students actually attended. In droves.

It was a great idea to center the activity around carnival games run by student groups. Of course, with a large number of first years showing up for HYPE, the event did border on a sequel to tabling outside registration. But this fair had a different flavor--group leaders talked to each other; students were able to converse with club members and see them show their creativity in creating a carnival atmosphere; and Harvard suddenly looked like a place with a lot of school spirit.

Truthfully, I have never seen anything like it in my four years here. I particularly enjoyed the comment of one sunglass-clad first year who said, "When I came to Harvard, I expected I'd be in the library all the time. But all they do here is have fun events outdoors." I didn't have the heart to tell her that with the exception of HYPE and the occasional Springfest exciting outdoor activity other than a long walk through the snow to class is not exactly the student body's strong point.

Coupling the student booths with a mainstage slate of political speakers was also a good idea. It was sad, though, to see that the MTV "Choose or Lose" bus was attracting more attention from the crowd than George Stephanopoulous, Robert Reich, Barney Frank and Susan Weld. I was disappointed to see how few folks were paying attention to the stage during their excellent and often inspirational speeches.

There were, of course, complaints that the Institute of Politics presented a rather partisan assortment of speakers. But looking at the countless Clinton/Gore signs in the audience, the student body generally seems in agreement with the political stance of the IOP. A couple of more creative students even rearranged the letters on the Dole sign to read OLDE--a fairly apt statement from a day devoted to the empowerment of youth. I even heard someone joke that the members of Harvard Republican club were actually going to devote their booth to campaigning solely for Kemp 2000 so that they would be taken more seriously.

And though I'd love to say that the success of HYPE '96 shows a new energy among undergraduates for matters political, there were those who were lured--and even forced--to the event by clever food orchestration. It was brilliant strategy on the part of the IOP to have the Kirkland, Eliot, and Winthrop dining halls close for lunch and serve outside instead. However, while it was a rather underhanded way to make hundreds of people attend HYPE who might otherwise have not, the crowds definately stayed around longer than they would have for the usual quick lunch.

So, while I do think that the students living in the nearby river houses should have been given fair warning about the noise and disruption they might face--in a final insult, my roommate was even asked to show her Harvard ID as she tried to get past the barricades to get back into Winthrop House later in the day--the event was a great one. I hope we can continue to delude our first years into thinking that these days happen all the time by supporting even more terrific events like HYPE '96.

Corinne E. Funk's column appears on alternate Tuesdays.

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