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After returning from their spring break adventures, many undergraduates expect the remaining weeks of this semester to prolong thefun and excitement experienced over the break. Unfortunately, that excitement might be lulled. Student sponsored social events, like House formals—that will provide social outlets for students in the weeks between break and finals—have in the past used locations from courtyards to nightclubs. But the College may start enforcing a policy that would place major restrictions on student groups seeking to use Boston’s nightclubs for their events.
This enforcement came to student attention last week when Associate Dean of the College David P. Illingworth ’71 met with students planning a proposed Kirkland and Pforzheimer club night. At the meeting, he revealed that groups who wish to use nightclubs for college-affiliated parties must present comprehensive details to him before any event is approved. Due to extensive planning already required to throw an event, students now fear that Illingworth’s policy, in practice, will preclude Houses and other student groups from having events in clubs.
Illingworth cited a student’s injury during last year’s Harvard-Yard club event as well as the recent fatal accidents at nightclubs in Rhode Island and Chicago as motivation for this policy. Though his concerns for student safety are legitimate, Illingworth’s means of achieving it are less than ideal. Boston maintains high safety standards for its clubs. If this blanket coverage doesn’t suffice for Illingworth, he should discriminate between clubs—not force the burden of proof on busy student planning committees. Events at venues that have a safe history of sponsoring Harvard groups are of low-risk to the University. Clubs new to Harvard—or clubs that held events resulting in minor injury, like Avalon this November—could easily be inspected for safety concerns by Illingworth or an outside consultant.
Students already go out clubbing. From events sponsored by unrecognized groups like the Seneca’s Red Party or the Spee’s Jammy Jam, to just weekend parties at clubs Avalon or Modern, Harvard undergraduates are familiar with the nightclub world. If Illingworth’s concerns are truly about student safety—and not about Harvard liability—he should gather safety information on well frequented clubs and publicize it to all students, not just insure that Harvard doesn’t get sued after a House social event.
Students’ inclination to go out to clubs reflects, in part, the lack of adequate party space on-campus. The College could decrease students’ dependence on nightclubs by providing more social space at Harvard. But by stringently and unnecessarily restricting use of downtown clubs for affiliated events, the college harms the social lives of students.
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