Students and staff snapped up thousands of tickets for a speech by former president Bill Clinton, with long lines forming before the ticket window at the Holyoke Center opened yesterday.
The IOP-sponsored event, Clinton’s first appearance at Harvard since the end of his presidency, will be held on Nov. 19 at 2:30 p.m. at the Gordon Track and Tennis Center. Clinton will speak about globalization, religion and public service in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to the IOP’s online announcement.
Tickets are still available for the event, IOP communications director Gordon Li said late yesterday. The IOP normally handles its own ticket distribution, but, anticipating high demand, gave the Harvard Box Office 4,000 free tickets to issue to students and staff.
“We are trying to get as many people into this event as possible,” Li said. “The box office is the best-equipped facility at Harvard to distribute tickets in this volume... It’s also a very central location on campus.” The bulk of tickets are designated for undergraduates, Li said.
The ticket window was scheduled to open at noon, but opened early in response to the long lines yesterday.
Bethann Rechner, a ticket agent at the box office, said the line was so long by 10:45 a.m. yesterday that the ticket window had to open early to keep the size of the crowd down.
Because there are only a limited number of tickets available, Harvard identification is required at the ticket counter. Although some students skirted the rules by obtaining multiple tickets with the same ID yesterday, Li and Rechner said ticketholders will also have to show a Harvard ID at the door to gain admission to the event.
“No system is going to be foolproof and we rely on the integrity of Harvard students to abide by the rules,” Li said.
Students said they were pleased with the simplified distribution system, especially compared with the long lines for tickets to a speech by former vice president Al Gore ’69 at the smaller ARCO Forum in early October.
Tedi S. Osias, a Kennedy School student who got in line for an Al Gore ticket at 7:12 a.m. the day of distribution, said she likes this system much better. “If they could do this over at the KSG, that would be optimal,” she said.
Nana-yaw B. Asamoah ’05 was pleasantly surprised after he picked up a ticket around 2:30 p.m. without waiting in line. “I thought it’d be like the Al Gore event— sold out,” he said.
Rechner said the box office had already distributed about 2,000 tickets by 2:45 p.m. yesterday. Despite the high volume, some of the students who stopped by said they thought the event was not well publicized.
Laura P. Perry ’04, who claimed a ticket yesterday afternoon, says she didn’t even know Clinton was speaking, but noticed the lines when she passed the box office around 1 p.m.
“I wish they’d publicized it more,” Perry said. “I would have gotten all my friends together [to attend].”
Asamoah also said he knew Clinton was scheduled to speak, but said he did not know when the tickets would be distributed.
Li said the event was publicized in both The Crimson and the Gazette, and that information was also available on the IOP’s e-mail distribution list and website. “Word of mouth is definitely a big factor here on campus and that is often how students hear about it,” he said.
If tickets continue to go at their Tuesday rates, Rechner estimated the box office would run out of tickets today.
This will be Clinton’s second address at the IOP, which has also recently hosted former presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush. Clinton spoke before while he was governor of Arkansas, Li said.
“The IOP tries to get the best speakers possible for public addresses in the forum,” Li said. “President Clinton, of course, is high on everyone’s list and it seemed to be natural that we would invite him.”
Security will be extremely tight for Clinton’s address. Both the Harvard police and the U.S. Secret Service are working security for this event, according to Lee.