Dormant First-Years Puzzle Campus

The Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) is not alone.

Though the umbrella organization for 82 public service groups was the first to voice its displeasure with an abnormally low number of first-years getting involved this fall, organizations from WHRB to the Veritones to the Black Men’s Forum (BMF) have confirmed what many have suspected: The Class of 2006 has slowed down.

The Veritones and the Opportunes, two of the campus’ largest a cappella groups, have each reported around a 30 percent drop in the number of first-years trying out.

Devin C. Powell ’03, president of the Veritones, says only 60 students tried out for the group this year—as opposed to over 90 students in past years.

While groups like Harvard Radio Broadcasting (WHRB) have managed to attract more first-year students after an initial lull, PBHA remains extremely short-staffed.


After only 25 first-years attended the Freshman Day of Service—down from 300 last year—and PBHA complained that 250 fewer first-years were volunteering than expected, the group still reports a 30 percent drop in first-year participation, according to President Laura E. Clancy ’02-’03.

No one is quite sure where to place the blame for the low first-year participation, though many students cite a letter that Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 sent first-years this summer advising them to “slow down” so as not to burn out upon reaching the Yard.

But Lewis points out that he sent the same letter to the Class of 2005 two summers ago—and there was no noticeable drop in participation by that class.

So as student groups struggle to make do with a reduced corps of first-years, the question of why the Class of 2006 slowed down continues to baffle.

Explaining the Trend

Director of Admissions Marlyn McGrath Lewis ’70-’73 says the drop in interest in extracurricular activities is “odd.”

“We still see, and admit, candidates with highly developed extracurricular talents and interests,” she says.

First-years insist that their class is not unusual, arguing that they are merely “testing the waters,” as Rashan Jibowu ’06 put it in an e-mail response to a complaint about first-years’ participation over the BMF e-mail list yesterday.

“I feel with a little extra time and the continued support of the upperclassmen, ’06 will blossom into a more evolved class,” wrote Jibowu, who is president of the Freshman Black Table.