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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Ticketing the Senior Class

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By Nicole B. Usher

Back when I applied for college, I crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t end up at a place with fewer students than my high school—1,200. I wanted to actually get to know a few hundred people, but if I did something worthy of vicious gossip, I could start all over without worrying too much about my reputation. I thought that Harvard’s 1650 students per class was the perfect class size. And I continued to think so until senior events began.

At first it was the Senior Soiree. With limited tickets because there simply isn’t enough space for every single senior to bring a date, procrastinators such as myself were unable to procure this highly-valued stub from the Harvard Box Office. I had hoped to have one last dance with my entire class, but the Senior Soiree was only open to those who could snatch up the first few hundred tickets.

I was slightly miffed.

I held desperate hope that I’d be able to get one of the 200 tickets the Senior Class Committee secured to the Yankees-Red Sox game. It was a first-come, first-served competition over e-mail. A friend sent an e-mail at 8:00:09, instead of 8:00:00 and still managed to get beaten. About 1000 seniors tried to get one of 200 precious tickets.

For the champagne brunch at Annenberg, which I’d been hearing about since freshman year, we had to enter in three waves. By shift three, the champagne had run out and the food line was over a half hour.

All of these disappointments lead me to one conlclusion: There are simply too many people to accommodate per class with the types of senior activities we have now. Many of us miss out on the events that should make their Senior Spring special. The Senior Class Committee should have been daring enough to risk breaking with tradition and planned events that every senior (with maybe even a date) could attend, instead of making the old, inadequate events a little better.

I’m not going to take any chances with the Last Chance Dance. But I am already feeling my parents breathing down my neck about commencement tickets—another looming problem for seniors. Each family gets four tickets to the rather anonymous proceedings at Tercentenary Theater. For people who dare to bring, say, both sets of grandparents or an aunt and an uncle, this simply will not do. Offers to buy commencement tickets started flying on list-servs in late March; still most people I know who’ve dreamed of their entire families attending have yet to find success.

Somehow, other universities manage to accommodate much larger hordes of relatives. Boston University, for example, manages to run their commencement and senior events for classes twice our size.

Harvard has the resources to ensure all its seniors and their families can participate in the festivities that mark the end of what is at least a $130,000 expenditure. We may owe student loans, but the Class Committee and the University owes seniors and our families a little more respect.

—Nicole B. Usher was a senior editor in 2002.

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