"Harvard's Hottest" date auction unleashed a two-week-long wave of contentious debate for the Class of `02. The premise: auction off dates with "desirable" first-years to raise money for newly established service organization, Boston Area Students Involved in the Community (BASIC). As highly charged emotions and bitter attacks on BASIC became the norm, one aspect emerged as particularly inflammatory. The implication was that the participants were the "hottest" that `02 had to offer. How could such a small group indiscriminately make this choice?
The real intentions of the event's producers couldn't be farther away from selective labeling of who's cool and who's not. In founding BASIC, co-founders of BASIC, Stephen N. Smith `02 and Philip W. Michaelsen `02, have accomplished more than most first-years can muster. BASIC mobilizes Boston-area college students to focus their collective energy on community service projects. Furthermore, while the auction of the available frosh was a part of the evening's activities, the primary fundraising event was a fashion show. To some extent, BASIC's noble agenda and slightly less commodifying focus quiet those who ardently protest on the grounds that an auction is degrading. Still, the question of model selection precludes unconditional support from the first-year class. When asked how "Harvard's Hottest" were actually chosen, Michaelson replied that, "while the fundraising committee initially looked in the freshman facebook, most of the people were people we knew or that our friends knew. Like Gerard Hammond, the cheerleader, we thought he would play to the crowd." Smith adds that the group was looking for people that would be "fun and charismatic on stage--people that were willing to do it. However, it wouldn't be fair to say that looks weren't in the back of our minds."
In response to rampant criticism, Smith claims that "it's not really Harvard's hottest...that's just a catch phrase. It's about raising money for a service organization and having fun. I was even against the auction idea at first but you can't take yourself too seriously." Also, Michaelson expresses that part of the selection was about simple diversity. "It's not like we have quotas but we didn't want just blond hair and blue eyes." While the premises of this event still remain questionable, BASIC demonstrated an impressive sensitivity to varying standards of beauty.
So to all the freshmen who were dissecting and analyzing "Harvard's Hottest" from the get go, just relax. Stop being so Harvard. The verdict: "Harvard's Hottest" was for a good cause. The turn-out in Lowell Lecture Hall suggests that Smith and Michaelson were simply feeding into a culture consumed by appearance and money. Does this absolve them? Take it to Annenberg.