Acting on the promise of the administration to change the source of student lighting to a safer and less expensive alternative, the Committee on College Life (COCL) has begun to ponder an existence without halogen lamps, those beloved lighting fixtures omnipresent on the Harvard campus. This bureaucratic contemplation is a necessary procedure, for the halogens are far from perfect. But the COCL had better make sure that students are well-supplied with substitute luminescence of comparable quality before it hastily recommends banning the lamps.
Our precious halogens have come under threat from the administration for the good reason that they are embodied with pyrotechnical prowess. A fire last year in Canaday Hall is the administration's local example of a halogen-induced fire, but surely we have all heard of other instances, not the least of which was the widely covered story of New York jazz musician Lionel Hampton whose apartment went aflame after his halogen tipped over. In the broader picture, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that halogens caused 100 fires and 10 deaths last year in this country.
But Harvard is dark. The fluorescent lighting in undergraduate rooms is not only ugly and ineffective, but it is also cold. Students need warm, bright light--such as is provided by halogens--in their dorm rooms to study and to live as amicable, productive beings. The halogens are somewhat dangerous, but they are the best option at present. The more elaborate system of overhead fluorescent lighting recently installed in Quincy house just doesn't cut the cake. And the COCL's scheme to make students buy the highly-touted "safe" halogen lamps is a false hope, for no such lamps currently exist. (The models recently made available were all been returned to the manufacturer.)
While the administration has eyed the dangers posed by halogen lamps, it should also take into account their luxurious benefits, namely good light at low prices. The administration, however, may have some financial concerns of its own. According to a recent undergraduate study, halogen floor lamps cost the University some $156,000 per year and use up 40 percent of the energy budget. We hope that this financial disincentive will not be the basis for any preemptive halogen ban. Students need light, and the present alternatives to halogens will not suffice.