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Crimson Key Sees Fewer Applicants, Extends Deadline

By Eugenia B. Schraa, Crimson Staff Writer

Members of the Crimson Key Society once proudly proclaimed that getting into their organization was as difficult as getting into Harvard.

But that changed last week, when applications declined by about 30 percent, according to Crimson Key President Matthew M. Segneri ’04.

The low numbers motivated the society to extend its application deadline from Wednesday to Friday in order to attract more applicants, according to an e-mail sent to members by Allison B. Holcombe ’04, the group’s comp director.

Segneri wrote in the e-mail that the decline had been expected in light of “the Admissions Office situation.”

Last summer, the Office of Admissions assumed full control over prospective student tours, displacing the Key as the exclusive provider of admission tours.

“Largely, Crimson Key was recognized specifically for its Admissions tours,” Segneri said.

Alexandra M. Tan ’06 had planned to apply, but changed her mind when she found out that giving tours to prospective students would no longer be the biggest responsibility of the job.

“That was my only reason for applying,” she said.

Tan says she is instead going to try out for the Undergraduate Admissions Council, which is the Admissions Office’s new organization in charge of giving tours of the College.

Others who did apply said that they were bothered by the decrease in tours.

“Its definitely fun to give tours,” said Dane J. Skillrud ’06. “Even when I’m just walking through the Yard, I love it when people ask me where something is. I often take them around, tell them stuff I’ve learned about the University, if I have time.”

But Crimson Key is actively working to make sure that Skillrud and others who applied will be able to satisfy their desire to show Harvard off.

“We recognized the need to grow as an organization and pursue new avenues of service for the University,” wrote Segneri. He said that Crimson Key is now giving tours for the Alumni Office as well as tours tailored for prospective student-athletes through the Athletics Office.

In the meantime, Crimson Key members will concentrate the bulk of their energy on events such as Freshman Week, Arts First and Commencement, Segneri said.

And despite the changes, the group has retained its social reputation.

“I’ve heard a lot about the social life,” Skillrud said. “The people in it are just great, and they throw great parties.”

Many applicants said, however, that the parties may not be enough to keep them satisfied with Crimson Key if the society is not able to eventually regain its status as the sole source of tour-guides.

“I am hopeful that they’re going to get admissions tours again,” said Caitlin B. McKee ’06. “It’s something they didn’t say much about, but I got the feeling that they were upset that they lost them, and want them back.”

Segneri said that while Crimson Key does want to “regain the ability to be the primary Admissions tour-giving organization,” he does not want relations between the group and the Admissions Office to become adversarial.

“We are two organizations who have been redefining who we are as regards to the Admissions tours during the last few months and I hope very much to meet with Admissions Office officials in the very near future,” he wrote.

Last summer, Director of Admissions Marlyn McGrath Lewis ’70-’73 said the changes were implemented in order to diversify the tour guide staff, to create greater accountability and coordination and to provide more job opportunities to students looking for work during the year.

“We want to make sure we broaden the eligibility of becoming a tour guide for those who don’t make it a major extracurricular commitment,” she said at the time. “We want to make sure a range of people get to conduct tours.”

—Staff writer Eugenia B. Schraa can be reached at schraa@fas.harvard.edu.

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