The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) will take ownership of the Hasty Pudding building according to an agreement negotiated with the graduate of the Institute of 1770, which owns the building.
John L. Dotson III '82, acting president of the graduate board, said yesterday that the group reached an agreement with FAS on Tuesday and signed a letter of intent that will transfer ownership of the building to Harvard.
FAS will then foot the bill for massive renovations to the dilapidated building--by some accounts, likely a $5 million undertaking.
David P. Illingworth '71, associate dean of the College, said yesterday the building will be renovated and the theater refurbished completely for undergraduate use.
"The theater will continue to be a theater, we're going to improve it. The rest of the building, we are less certain about, maybe rehearsal space, social space, or [student] offices," he said. "It's definitely going to be for students. It's not going to be teaching space."
He said the acquisition of the Pudding building is "the most major new undergraduate space in years. I am so, so happy."
In 1986, the institute--an umbrella group that governs Hasty Pudding Theatricals, the Hasty Pudding social club, the Pitches and the Krokodiloes--sold the land the Pudding building sits on to the University, but retained ownership of the building. As a result, the graduate board was paying Harvard for use of the land.
But the institute has long been in arrears to Harvard, does not have the funds to keep up the aging Pudding building and cannot pay the back rent owed to Harvard.
Dotson said the institute has over $100,000 in the bank, but that the sum was not enough to pay back Harvard.
The building was assessed at a value of $1,449,100 in 1999, but FAS will not pay the institute for the building aside from paying the small legal fees incurred in the building's transfer, according to Dotson.
Harvard will forgive the institute's debt to the University as part of the agreement.
With the institute strapped for cash and deep in debt to Harvard, the University had some leverage--not to mention an interest--in acquiring the Pudding building, which houses a theater and is situated at the very heart of campus.
Administrators have long been concerned about losing undergraduate access to Agassiz Theatre in Radcliffe Yard, as the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study has expressed interest in using the space for its own events, and FAS loses official access to the space--and its basement set shop--in 2004.
And though administrators said yesterday the acquisition of the Pudding building is certainly a gain for a space-crunched campus, they hope to retain access to Agassiz as well.
"One important thing Agassiz has
that the Pudding does not have is a shop," Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 wrote yesterday in an e-mail message.
And the Pudding building is not in great shape. Illingworth said the building needs heat, electrical and plumbing work, and must also be made handicapped accessible.
Administrators said the Theatricals, Pitches and Kroks will be able to continue to use the facility. The social club, however, would have to change its punch selection process for choosing members and dues paying policy to comply with College rules for recognized student groups and remain in the building.
Illingworth said he has had conversations with the student leaders of the social club and hopes to work with them on their plans for the future.
"They can go in different directions. I can easily see them becoming a recognized student group if they [changed some things]," he said. "They could remain a social club, and that would be fine too."
William B. Decherd '01, membership coordinator for the Pudding, said he was initially disappointed when he heard the news, but then had a change of heart.
"I trust that the University will take this opportunity to create a first-class facility. For an undergraduate, this cannot be anything but exciting news," said Decherd, who is also a Crimson editor. "The officers of the Pudding club see this as a great opportunity to re-evaluate our position on campus," he said.
The Theatricals portion of the Pudding technically complies with the College's policy forbidding recognized student groups from discriminating on the basis of gender, though only men are allowed to act on the Pudding stage. Women are involved in all other aspects of the Theatricals' productions and hence the group retains its recognized status.
"We have never construed the particular artistic form of the Hasty Pudding shows as in violation of the College's policies against single-sex
organizations, given that the organization does not prohibit women from joining and participating in other ways," Lewis wrote. "This has been considered before and is not changed by these new arrangements."
Illingworth said he would like to see his office and the Theatricals "work out something to continue the tradition."
He did say he could imagine talking about women on the stage, but said it was "much too soon to know for sure."
"We told the Theatricals that we are going to continue to offer them space. We don't want them to be anymore shocked than they already are, but [women on the stage] will be open to discussion for the community," Illingworth said.
Sarah A. Knight '00, who was president of Theatricals for this year's production of The Jewel of Denial , said the company was surprised to hear of the announcement.
Knight said the Theatricals' policy about women on the stage, "seems to be no different than the Harvard Glee Club or the Radcliffe Chorus."
"If [changes] were to come up, it is something that we would go over in minute detail, [but]it's not the essence of the current changes," she said.
While the undergraduates involved in the Pudding are losing the complete control they once enjoyed over the Pudding building, Dotson said the graduate board of the institute had little choice but to sign the building over to Harvard.
Dotson said the institute draws its income from ticket sales from Pudding Theatricals and from the building's tenant, the restaurant Upstairs at the Pudding.
"The bottom line is, in  we sold the land. We got a 99 year lease, and it was at commercial rates; that's expensive," he said. "Our ability to pay the rent to a large degree was affected by the restaurant. Unfortunately, the restaurant fell behind, and that in turn infringed upon our ability to pay Harvard."
But one of the owners of Upstairs at the Pudding, Mary-Catherine Deibel denied her restaurant had not paid the institute.
"We are completely current," she said. "We just wrote a rent check on April 1st to the Institute of 1770."
Dotson, in turn, said, "We have disagreements about the restaurant's obligations under the lease."
He said the restaurant's lease expires in September of 2000.
Illingworth said he will assemble a committee in the coming months to examine possible uses for the newly acquired space, but said radical change is unlikely in the short term.
"The most we could do would be to plan over the summer," he said. "It'll be a while before the building is vacated."
And Lewis said he sees FAS' acquisition of the building as a saving grace for the Pudding groups who might have lost the building completely if Harvard not intervened.
"I am, in fact, delighted that we have been able to save the performing groups. Had we not stepped in when we did, the building might have been turned over to non-student use, even commercial use, and the performing groups could have been left with no performance space at all," he wrote.
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