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Future of Social Life Debated by College

Lewis calls role of final clubs overstated

By Victoria C. Hallett, CRIMSON STAFF WRITERS

Since final clubs began formally barring non-members in January, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 has made a point of saying he is not the campus cruise director--and therefore has little duty to create new social outlets as these unofficial ones close off.

But, in the wake of four final clubs' decisions to tighten guest policies, it seems that the administration has shaped the state of the campus social scene far more directly than Lewis' claim implies.

Lewis says he began raising concerns about the clubs' liability shortly after he became dean in 1996.

According to the head of the Inter-Club Council (ICC), liability concerns ultimately prompted the A.D., Owl and Phoenix S.K. clubs to close their doors and the Delphic club to restrict guest access.

Now, with club members predicting more closings eventually, students are asking where Harvard goes from here.

Lewis maintains that the campus will be unaffected because final clubs were not the backbone of Harvard social life that some make them out to be.

Nevertheless, without the final club option, partygoers may have to turn to the Houses--where students say an inappropriately early curfew and red tape can sometimes hamper social events.

Administration Warned Clubs

Undergraduate and graduate club members attribute the changes in guest policy to the fear of a liability case like the one of Scott M. Krueger.

Krueger was an MIT first-year who died after a night of drinking at a fraternity house in 1997. Criminal charges were brought against the fraternity, but it disbanded to avoid prosecution.

However, Lewis says he and other administrators began raising the issue of final club liability long before that.

"I believe we started warning the undergraduateand graduate officers of their potentialliabilities as early as the spring of my firstyear as dean," Lewis wrote in an e-mail messageyesterday.

And ICC President Rev. Douglas W. Sears'69 saysthat although the administration has long beencommunicating its wish that the clubs either shutdown or admit women, the recent final club actionsare not in response to these requests.

"We have refrained from lecturing Harvard onwhat it should be doing. Harvard has not refrainedfrom lecturing us," Sears says. "It's none ofHarvard's business."

Sears says the clubs' role as campus partycenters evolved from their original functionbecause Harvard had done an inadequate job ofcreating other social outlets for students.

"[Harvard said,] 'admit women or quietly go outof existence.' No. You take your students and getthem off our property," Sears says.

He says the administration looks hypocriticalby blasting the clubs while failing to providesocial alternatives.

"Harvard wants to sit and yap about it, actlike they have some noble purpose, but it's reallyjust money," Sears says. "How come you haven'tprovided a place for your kids to play?"

Is There a Problem?

In a Feb. 12 op-ed piece in The Crimson, Lewisresponded to a survey in which a sample of Harvardstudents rated social life at the College, onaverage, with a 3.46 out of a possible 5.

Lewis pointed out the danger in asking theadministration to tell students how they shouldfill their time.

"During college, students learn to takeresponsibility for their own actions, to makechoices and to live with the consequences," hewrote.

"How can it be helpful to students' developmentas adults and as citizens for the College toassume responsibility for seeing to it thatstudents do not feel they need to study on Fridaynights?" he wrote.

And now both Lewis and Associate Dean for theHouse System Thomas A. Dingman '67 say that, whilethe College should not be responsible for fixingproblems with social life, in this case there ishardly a problem at all.

"A certain type of partying that fits somebeer-ad stereotype of social life may be morelimited," Lewis wrote in an e-mail message.

Students interviewed this week had mixedopinions on the subject, with some saying thatfinal club closings did not impact their lives atall.

"It doesn't matter where you go. It matterswhom you go with," says June Beack '01.

But others say that a 1 a.m. weekend partycurfew in the Houses and the forms students mustfill out to hold parties make it hard for studentsto create their own social events.

"Sometimes [House parties] are good, but moreoften than not, they tend to be un-fun," saysKristin A. Bevington '01. "It's disappointing, andI look for other things to do. I don't find thatthere's a lot to do on campus."

Catching the Runoff

In recent weeks, final club members have blamedrandomization for a lack of House unity and theincreased dependence on club parties.

So it may make sense to predict that, as clubsclose their doors on most weekends, the Houses mayagain absorb some of the social runoff by default.

"The House communities provide an excellentopportunity for students to find entertainment,"wrote Sigma Chi President Hector C. Bove '00 in ane-mail message.

"The Houses create a sense of camaraderie, andalready many Houses have their traditionalparties, i.e. the Leverett 80s dance or Winthrop'sDebauchery party," wrote Bove, who is a Crimsonexecutive.

Bove says Sigma Chi's tight guest policies willensure that its role in the Harvard social scenewill not change significantly in the aftermath ofthe club closings.

"I'm not too worried about that. Our partiesare pretty strictly regulated-we have a guest listand we've been doing that for the past five years,since the chapter started," Bove says.

Marisa Noel '99, president of the Hasty Puddingclub, said her organization has a similar policyagainst open parties.

Finding a Place to Play

The one thing that is certain as clubs closetheir doors is that the College has no plans toinitiate its own formal response anytime soon.

"We'll want to be responsive as students comeforward with their own ideas," Dingman said. "Thebest events are student-initiated."

"If there's interest, and they can't find avenue, I'm sure that the Dean of Students will beall ears," he added.

Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III hasproposed setting up a barn on the quadrangle nextto the Malkin Athletic Center and using it to hostdance parties.

But this idea seems more like a philosophicalstatement--in line with Epps' belief that Harvardstudents need more personal interaction to roundout their intellectual growth--than a legitimateplan for change.

Students this week said the College's bestoption may be not to do more, but to doless--easing off on curfew and party policies inorder to allow more social events in the Houses.

"School events are options for some studentswho don't have a lot of money," says Edward A.Wheeler '99. "The school in general really lacksinformal options, though--there are plenty offormal options, but there should be moreHouse-based options that are open to more of thecampus.

"I believe we started warning the undergraduateand graduate officers of their potentialliabilities as early as the spring of my firstyear as dean," Lewis wrote in an e-mail messageyesterday.

And ICC President Rev. Douglas W. Sears'69 saysthat although the administration has long beencommunicating its wish that the clubs either shutdown or admit women, the recent final club actionsare not in response to these requests.

"We have refrained from lecturing Harvard onwhat it should be doing. Harvard has not refrainedfrom lecturing us," Sears says. "It's none ofHarvard's business."

Sears says the clubs' role as campus partycenters evolved from their original functionbecause Harvard had done an inadequate job ofcreating other social outlets for students.

"[Harvard said,] 'admit women or quietly go outof existence.' No. You take your students and getthem off our property," Sears says.

He says the administration looks hypocriticalby blasting the clubs while failing to providesocial alternatives.

"Harvard wants to sit and yap about it, actlike they have some noble purpose, but it's reallyjust money," Sears says. "How come you haven'tprovided a place for your kids to play?"

Is There a Problem?

In a Feb. 12 op-ed piece in The Crimson, Lewisresponded to a survey in which a sample of Harvardstudents rated social life at the College, onaverage, with a 3.46 out of a possible 5.

Lewis pointed out the danger in asking theadministration to tell students how they shouldfill their time.

"During college, students learn to takeresponsibility for their own actions, to makechoices and to live with the consequences," hewrote.

"How can it be helpful to students' developmentas adults and as citizens for the College toassume responsibility for seeing to it thatstudents do not feel they need to study on Fridaynights?" he wrote.

And now both Lewis and Associate Dean for theHouse System Thomas A. Dingman '67 say that, whilethe College should not be responsible for fixingproblems with social life, in this case there ishardly a problem at all.

"A certain type of partying that fits somebeer-ad stereotype of social life may be morelimited," Lewis wrote in an e-mail message.

Students interviewed this week had mixedopinions on the subject, with some saying thatfinal club closings did not impact their lives atall.

"It doesn't matter where you go. It matterswhom you go with," says June Beack '01.

But others say that a 1 a.m. weekend partycurfew in the Houses and the forms students mustfill out to hold parties make it hard for studentsto create their own social events.

"Sometimes [House parties] are good, but moreoften than not, they tend to be un-fun," saysKristin A. Bevington '01. "It's disappointing, andI look for other things to do. I don't find thatthere's a lot to do on campus."

Catching the Runoff

In recent weeks, final club members have blamedrandomization for a lack of House unity and theincreased dependence on club parties.

So it may make sense to predict that, as clubsclose their doors on most weekends, the Houses mayagain absorb some of the social runoff by default.

"The House communities provide an excellentopportunity for students to find entertainment,"wrote Sigma Chi President Hector C. Bove '00 in ane-mail message.

"The Houses create a sense of camaraderie, andalready many Houses have their traditionalparties, i.e. the Leverett 80s dance or Winthrop'sDebauchery party," wrote Bove, who is a Crimsonexecutive.

Bove says Sigma Chi's tight guest policies willensure that its role in the Harvard social scenewill not change significantly in the aftermath ofthe club closings.

"I'm not too worried about that. Our partiesare pretty strictly regulated-we have a guest listand we've been doing that for the past five years,since the chapter started," Bove says.

Marisa Noel '99, president of the Hasty Puddingclub, said her organization has a similar policyagainst open parties.

Finding a Place to Play

The one thing that is certain as clubs closetheir doors is that the College has no plans toinitiate its own formal response anytime soon.

"We'll want to be responsive as students comeforward with their own ideas," Dingman said. "Thebest events are student-initiated."

"If there's interest, and they can't find avenue, I'm sure that the Dean of Students will beall ears," he added.

Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III hasproposed setting up a barn on the quadrangle nextto the Malkin Athletic Center and using it to hostdance parties.

But this idea seems more like a philosophicalstatement--in line with Epps' belief that Harvardstudents need more personal interaction to roundout their intellectual growth--than a legitimateplan for change.

Students this week said the College's bestoption may be not to do more, but to doless--easing off on curfew and party policies inorder to allow more social events in the Houses.

"School events are options for some studentswho don't have a lot of money," says Edward A.Wheeler '99. "The school in general really lacksinformal options, though--there are plenty offormal options, but there should be moreHouse-based options that are open to more of thecampus.

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