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Is Harvard Anti-Social?

Without Fraternities, a Loose Drinking Policy or On-Campus Bars, Harvard Might Not Be Number One After All

By Paul K. Nitze

You're burnt out on the Grille, the patterns on the Loker LED confuse you and your House master sniffs out your parties like a bloodhound.

So you think to yourself, if Harvard can reel in the best students and professors alike and can provide me with more speeches, concerts and exhibits than I could possibly attend, why can't it consistently show me a good time?

In the wake of a letter from Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III admonishing activities at final clubs and the administration's rejection of a proposal that would bring alcohol to Loker, many students have started to sense what others have felt for a long time--namely, that something's wrong with social life at Harvard.

"I think the majority of students feel there's a void in the social scene. The typical college parties are non-existent at Harvard," says Joseph A. Sena '99, co-chair of the Undergraduate Council's Campus Life Committee.

Students cite everything from the lack of open parties and gathering places to the school's policy on alcohol as contributing to Harvard's social malaise. Others simply blame it on the nature of Harvard students in general.

"I think people come here because its not your typical frat school," says Catherine D. Rucker '99, also co-chair of the Campus Life Committee.

Can Loker Fill the Void?

But other schools with similar student bodies have very different approaches to on and off-campus entertainment. Brown, for instance, has an on-campus bar, the Underground, that provides an easy outlet for students that want to drink with their friends without going into town.

"They don't care [about serving alcohol at the Underground] once you're in, as long as you have a Brown or Rhode Island School of Design ID, and one Brown student can bring like 10 friends," says Tyler W. Thorn, a first-year at Brown.

Thorn emphasizes that Brown maintains a bar on campus because it recognizes the need for a safe place where everyone is welcome.

"[The Underground] might generate a little bit of money, but I think it's combination of keeping alcohol on campus and providing entertainment," he says.

Bars like the Underground might serve as models for bringing alcohol into Loker Commons, but the College administration remains opposed to the idea of serving alcohol in Loker.

"The idea of alcohol in Loker kind of makes [the administration] wet their pants," says Rudd W. Coffey '97.

"It worked very well [at Loker] with the Harvard/Yale victory party, where we had kegs in the coffeehouse," Coffey says. "My only hope is that Loker can be used so that alcohol can be integrated, and not be a separate event."

Alcohol may not be Loker's saving grace, however. Many students feel that with or without alcohol Loker needs to be completely revamped before it will draw enough students to make it a success.

"Alcohol would be a big draw, but something I think would be a bigger draw would be to have a McDonalds or some other fast-food chain in there and allow students to use their Crimson Cash," Rucker says.

Sena, who is a Crimson execu- tive, was irritated with the lack of comfortable and inventive seating arrangements and the generally sterile atmosphere in Loker, likening it to a high school cafeteria.

"I think you need to put things in like pool tables, couches, TV's, etc," he says.

House Party

But even if Loker gets a succesful makeover, it won't solve the majority of problems with social life at Harvard. Even with Boston next door, many students call for a wider variety of parties on campus, particularly in the houses.

"It's become harder and harder to have casual social gatherings in the houses. It's like trying to sneak out of your parents' house to have a party," Coffey says.

"The parties that are in the houses are small, hot, and always really crowded," says Stephanie L. Ellis '00.

Other schools demonstrate that large, fun parties in students' dorms and houses are possible.

"My personal feeling is that each of the residential colleges has a very large impact on our social life," says Tyson Belanger, president of the Yale College Council. "There are very few campus-wide events."

"Within each college there's sort of a party room," says Molly R. Woodroofe, a junior at Yale.

Animal House

At Stanford, as at many schools, fraternities are the venue of choice for weekend entertainment.

"For a lot of people [fraternities] are a big part of their social lives," says Samuel Park, a junior at Stanford. "The frat parties are very open and not really exclusive at all."

The same holds true for Brown, though few Brown students are members of fraternities and sororities.

"The interesting things about frats at Brown is that a very small percentage of students belong to them, but a very large percentage go to them," says Brown student Celeste A. Tarricone, a junior.

Many students see fraternities and sororities as "safe zones" where they can drink and dance the night away free from the watchful eye of campus officials.

"My perception is that if you throw a party at a frat house, which are all university-controlled with the exception of one, enforcement becomes a lot more selective," says Martin Yeung, a Stanford senior.

But one night at Stanford that wasn't the case. Yeung recounted one infamous incident when Heather Dunn, a youthful university administrator, "infiltrated" a fraternity party posing as a first-year, was served alcohol and then reported her findings to Stanford's governing board.

Harvard administrators have long frowned on fraternities and sororities. Some students point to final clubs as Harvard's replacement for frats, but many say their exclusiveness and limited membership prevents them from making a substantial impact on the Harvard social scene.

"Personally, I think [the effect of final clubs] is detrimental. For those of us that aren't members or aren't welcome it still leaves the social situation at Harvard kind of hollow," Coffey says.

"If you go to a frat you can go with a bunch of friends, but if you go to a final club you have to ask, 'Do I know someone here?'" Ellis says.

Sena agrees with Coffey that the clubs don't meet the needs of many students.

"I think a lot of people would enjoy [final clubs] if they were less exclusive," he says.

But Rucker says she enjoys Harvard partly because fraternities and similar social clubs don't dominate the entertainment options available to students.

"I have nothing against the final clubs or sororities on campus, but I would hate to see our social scene moving in that direction. I would not be in favor of expanding the fraternity/sorority scene on campus," she says.

Bright Lights, Big City

For many Harvard students, Boston is the perfect retreat, but several Yale and Brown students said that living in cities not quite as exciting as Boston strengthens the on-campus social scene.

Some students, who do not dare venture beyond campus environs, say the constraints can be liberating.

"People tend to stay on campus, certainly compared to Harvard. I think that may be one of Yale's plusses, because it forces us to confront our creativity and get something started on campus," Belanger says.

Though Boston offers ample entertainment, Coffey points out that the night-life of the city is not always a feasible option for students.

"Harvard students are scared and don't always have the time to go into Boston," he says.

Coffey also mentioned that the absence of open, unified events on campus forces students into more highly segregated groups than they might otherwise fall into.

"Harvard doesn't have a central unifying social element," he says. "That really loses some of the beautiful diversity that Harvard has."

The problem of social stratification is not unique to Harvard, however.

"It's really funny, because [Stanford] encourages diversity a lot, and all of these groups have their own events, which only keeps people apart more," Park says.

But another Stanford student said the university's system of forcing students to change dorms every year provides an opportunity for students to meet new people.

"[At Harvard] you're in a House for three years, whereas here you change dorms every year. Inevitably you make friends in the new place you live in," says Yeung.

But Yeung, who transferred to Stanford after spending part of his first year at Harvard, had other motives for going to Stanford.

"I've got a nice tan now. That's nice. I'm not pale anymore," says Yeung, who is a Crimson editor.

However, Woodroofe offers one final insight into the campus social scene. "Some people bitch and complain, but if you're a fun person, you're going to find fun things to do," she says

"I think you need to put things in like pool tables, couches, TV's, etc," he says.

House Party

But even if Loker gets a succesful makeover, it won't solve the majority of problems with social life at Harvard. Even with Boston next door, many students call for a wider variety of parties on campus, particularly in the houses.

"It's become harder and harder to have casual social gatherings in the houses. It's like trying to sneak out of your parents' house to have a party," Coffey says.

"The parties that are in the houses are small, hot, and always really crowded," says Stephanie L. Ellis '00.

Other schools demonstrate that large, fun parties in students' dorms and houses are possible.

"My personal feeling is that each of the residential colleges has a very large impact on our social life," says Tyson Belanger, president of the Yale College Council. "There are very few campus-wide events."

"Within each college there's sort of a party room," says Molly R. Woodroofe, a junior at Yale.

Animal House

At Stanford, as at many schools, fraternities are the venue of choice for weekend entertainment.

"For a lot of people [fraternities] are a big part of their social lives," says Samuel Park, a junior at Stanford. "The frat parties are very open and not really exclusive at all."

The same holds true for Brown, though few Brown students are members of fraternities and sororities.

"The interesting things about frats at Brown is that a very small percentage of students belong to them, but a very large percentage go to them," says Brown student Celeste A. Tarricone, a junior.

Many students see fraternities and sororities as "safe zones" where they can drink and dance the night away free from the watchful eye of campus officials.

"My perception is that if you throw a party at a frat house, which are all university-controlled with the exception of one, enforcement becomes a lot more selective," says Martin Yeung, a Stanford senior.

But one night at Stanford that wasn't the case. Yeung recounted one infamous incident when Heather Dunn, a youthful university administrator, "infiltrated" a fraternity party posing as a first-year, was served alcohol and then reported her findings to Stanford's governing board.

Harvard administrators have long frowned on fraternities and sororities. Some students point to final clubs as Harvard's replacement for frats, but many say their exclusiveness and limited membership prevents them from making a substantial impact on the Harvard social scene.

"Personally, I think [the effect of final clubs] is detrimental. For those of us that aren't members or aren't welcome it still leaves the social situation at Harvard kind of hollow," Coffey says.

"If you go to a frat you can go with a bunch of friends, but if you go to a final club you have to ask, 'Do I know someone here?'" Ellis says.

Sena agrees with Coffey that the clubs don't meet the needs of many students.

"I think a lot of people would enjoy [final clubs] if they were less exclusive," he says.

But Rucker says she enjoys Harvard partly because fraternities and similar social clubs don't dominate the entertainment options available to students.

"I have nothing against the final clubs or sororities on campus, but I would hate to see our social scene moving in that direction. I would not be in favor of expanding the fraternity/sorority scene on campus," she says.

Bright Lights, Big City

For many Harvard students, Boston is the perfect retreat, but several Yale and Brown students said that living in cities not quite as exciting as Boston strengthens the on-campus social scene.

Some students, who do not dare venture beyond campus environs, say the constraints can be liberating.

"People tend to stay on campus, certainly compared to Harvard. I think that may be one of Yale's plusses, because it forces us to confront our creativity and get something started on campus," Belanger says.

Though Boston offers ample entertainment, Coffey points out that the night-life of the city is not always a feasible option for students.

"Harvard students are scared and don't always have the time to go into Boston," he says.

Coffey also mentioned that the absence of open, unified events on campus forces students into more highly segregated groups than they might otherwise fall into.

"Harvard doesn't have a central unifying social element," he says. "That really loses some of the beautiful diversity that Harvard has."

The problem of social stratification is not unique to Harvard, however.

"It's really funny, because [Stanford] encourages diversity a lot, and all of these groups have their own events, which only keeps people apart more," Park says.

But another Stanford student said the university's system of forcing students to change dorms every year provides an opportunity for students to meet new people.

"[At Harvard] you're in a House for three years, whereas here you change dorms every year. Inevitably you make friends in the new place you live in," says Yeung.

But Yeung, who transferred to Stanford after spending part of his first year at Harvard, had other motives for going to Stanford.

"I've got a nice tan now. That's nice. I'm not pale anymore," says Yeung, who is a Crimson editor.

However, Woodroofe offers one final insight into the campus social scene. "Some people bitch and complain, but if you're a fun person, you're going to find fun things to do," she says

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