The University's imminent takeover of the Hasty Pudding building, announced last week, promises to be a win-win situation for students. The Pudding's existing theatrical and performing groups will benefit from much-needed building renovations now made possible by Harvard's vast financial resources. The departure of the Pudding's independent restaurant and venerable social club will make available a spacious interior that will be allocated for more general student use. Even Pudding Club members, faced with the dismal prospect of relocation, have accepted the move as an opportunity to re-evaluate their role on a campus that is slowly moving away from exclusive social organizations and towards more inclusive student activities.
But, as always, the devil is in the details. Associate Dean of the College David P. Illingworth '71 has rightly noted that the Pudding space should be dedicated entirely to student use. What has yet to be determined, however, is how exactly the space will be divided--a task that in turn depends on what specific role the renovated building will occupy in campus life. Illingworth and others involved in the decision-making process should preserve the Pudding's artistic tradition by giving priority to the theater and performing groups.
Because of the Pudding's size, facilities and heritage, the building would make a better "performing arts center" than a "student center," although the latter is still sorely needed. Nevertheless, plans to renovate the Pudding should embrace as many different performing arts groups as possible. This goal would allow the new Pudding to involve the largest possible number of students without becoming another bland and featureless Loker Commons.
With the possible loss of the Agassiz Theatre, space for the performing arts is increasingly tight, and Illingworth has hinted that he would indeed prioritize the performing arts in allocating space at the Pudding. At the same time, however, the danger exists that an excessively narrow focus on a particular type of performing arts might turn the Pudding into a de facto clubhouse where social space is used only by one small segment of the campus. A truly dynamic Pudding would be home to a wide variety of performances, including theater, music, dance and cultural arts.
Of course, this approach does not resolve every detail. Not every student performance group will be lucky enough to move from a dusty basement upstairs to the Pudding. But the task of selecting these groups, as well as designing the other aspects of the building, would be capably handled by a committee comprising both students and administrators.
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