Most students don't realize that the Inn at Harvard--that mainstay of parental habitation during commencement--actually belongs to Harvard University. If students had known the Inn was Harvard-owned, perhaps they wouldn't have deposited pennies for a student center on the steps of Mass. Hall, as the Undergraduate Council did last year. Instead, they might have handed their piggy-bank to the Inn concierge as a down payment on a student center.
According to Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles' annual letter to the Faculty, the University is considering eventually repossessing the Inn for academic purposes. In fact, half of the current profits of the Inn go into a fund for faculty recruitment; the other half go to pay off the construction costs of the hotel.
In about 13 years, according to Knowles, the Inn at Harvard will be out of the red and in Harvard's hands. Technically, the University could take control of the Inn at any time, but it probably would not do so before the debt were paid in full. These revelations beg the question: What should be done with this prime real estate if it ceases to be lodging for proud parents of graduating seniors?
Knowles has suggested that the Inn might be converted to offices for humanities professors. But savvy students should begin lobbying now for the student center they have been longing for.
For years, students have been clamoring in vain for a student center, a center for student-group offices and recreational activity that could help unify an increasingly socially fragmented student body. However, Harvard seems unlikely to build such a center on campus in the near future, or to buy or renovate another building for this purpose. Yet if the University is already considering a substantial renovation of the Inn at Harvard, it would be foolish for the students not to seize this opportunity.
The Inn at Harvard is probably the closest available real estate to the Yard, and while it is not perfectly positioned between the Quad and the River, it is near enough to current student hot-spots to warrant serious consideration. Although professors may argue that the Inn's proximity to the Barker Center makes it ideal for their offices, students can argue that the Inn's proximity to Lamont Library makes it a perfect place for student gatherings. Furthermore, the Inn is in the thick of late-night student activity--right down the street from the Kong and only a few more streets away from Tommy's--and is fairly removed from residential buildings.
The Inn's current structure would make it an ideal student center. Its many suites could easily be remodeled into office space for student groups. Its spacious lobby could accommodate student gatherings and would make a great dance floor. The Inn already has a built-in kitchen, so a food court would be only minor renovations away.
Of course, students have always been willing to share their cramped office space in the Matthews basement, so there's no reason why faculty or students should be turned away from the Inn's doors. In fact, a little more rubbing of shoulders between professors and students would be a welcome change. Surely the building which has held so many commencement attendees can hold a good mix of student and faculty offices.
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