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Are we really this pathetic? Has it gotten so bad that we need the party animals over at the Undergraduate Council to start funding room parties on campus? It’s bad enough that everyone knows the best way to get drunk for free is to start a bogus organization (Arnold Cultural Society?) and buy beer with the council funding, but at least you had to go through the necessary motions of creating a group and not just saying “hey, I want to drink and, uh, eat chips—you pay for it!”
Which is not to say that the next time there’s a party in my room we won’t apply for council funding, no sense in turning down $100 in free money. But is this really the role of the council, ostensibly a student group despite the fact it answers to the administration and relies on it for funding through a fee on our tuition bills?
Issues of fiscal responsibility aside though, my real concern here is with the culture that can create such a bizarre new program. I mean, since when is the College, the authority figures, the old white hairs, supposed to be funding our partying? Whatever happened to young, rebellious, fun-seeking college students risking their disciplinary and academic records to party? Sticking it to the Man, using their own creative abilities to find funding and space and people and, of course, booze. When my stepbrother was at UVM and he and his roommates needed to raise a little cash, they would throw a kegger-$5 for a bottomless cup. They made some spending money, people got to drink as much beer as they wanted for $5 and everyone had a good time. There’s your party funding.
I’m going to let you all in on a little secret: Harvard is not that hard a place to hold a party. Believe it or not, the room and alcohol regulations are not nearly so harsh as at many other schools. And I’m not talking about BYU here, I’m talking about Holy Cross, Providence College, the kind of schools that when my buddies came home for Thanksgiving freshman year they started getting the shakes because they hadn’t gone more than a day or two without booze since the summer. Whenever I would visit them, RAs would randomly enter rooms and look for alcohol, being allowed to throw parties in dorm rooms was unheard of, and people were being constantly written up and disciplined for drinking.
There were no Stein Clubs, no room parties, no room party funding, no Dean Harry “Hands-On” Lewis telling people to relax more, have more fun, make friends and enjoy themselves. There was none of this, and yet they had roughly a million times more fun than we did. And why was that? Because they wanted to.
We’ve all been to enough Harvard-Yale games, decent room parties and random club nights in Boston to realize that Harvard students are physically capable of partying. The problem is that we don’t care enough. Which is fine, if we really want to feel self-important and think that spending a Thursday night working on that Justice essay is somehow going to have an impact on ours or anyone else’s life, then fine, let’s feel that way. And for those who do want to party more, well, go out and do it. I’ve heard just about enough whining from people who say that Harvard students are no fun, unattractive, undersexed, etc. There are ways to fix this problem, and spending a Friday night bitching about it on IM to a friend that lives upstairs while furiously sorting through people’s iTunes playlists and occasionally glancing at an Economics textbook is not the way to do it.
We are a collection of 6,600 college students plopped down in the best college town in the world, with as much access to bars, clubs, large common rooms and whatever kinds of inebriants float your boat as can be asked for. And we can’t have a good time? Sure there is more that the College, with perhaps the pressure of the council, could do: extend party hours a little bit, maybe have a Brown-quality Springfest. But this is not the responsibility of a bunch of pencil-pushing council types and administration higher-ups—who, let’s face it, are the same people who were locked in a library for their undergraduate careers and think “getting out of hand” involves too much good sherry and a risqué ascot.
Whatever happened to taking responsibility for our own social lives, to not trusting anyone over 35, to toga parties and dead horses in the dean’s office. It’s a bit like the proverbial elephant trunk under the circus tent, now that the council has started funding our parties—why not just have them run the parties, too. Tell us how to throw them, where to advertise, what to serve; give us playlists by Rohit, advice on ways to serve less alcohol and more snacks from President Summers.
Maybe we could just give up and go the MIT route, start offering classes on how to “interact with other people” and “make friends.” The best thing the council and the College could do to create a better party atmosphere, besides changing the admissions policies that let in all of us guilt-tripping workaholics, social misfits and overachievers is to leave us to our own devices, force us to party for ourselves or die trying. Anyone wants to join me, my e-mail is email@example.com. I’ll be out all weekend. Random freshman dudes need not apply.
Joe Flood ’04 is an English concentrator in Mather House. His column appears on alternate Thursdays.
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