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No Space for Spin

The College's bungled search for a home for its dancers has led to a net loss for students

By The CRIMSON Staff

University Hall’s decision to replace a portion of the Quadrangle Recreational Activities Center (QRAC) with space for Harvard’s sundry and spectacular dance programs is a reasonable plan—if only regrettably necessary—and deserves student support.

The needs of the 18 different student dance groups and the hundreds of students who participate in them clearly take precedence over the loss of part of the QRAC for recreational and intramural use. The new dance space will greatly benefit Harvard’s dance community and will also be available, or will help make other spaces available, for both Office for the Arts extracurricular dance classes and dance classes for credit, which benefit all interested students.

That said, the administration’s attempt to spin this decision into a positive and revitalizing outcome for Quad residents is frustrating and transparent. In reality, the College bungled the negotiations with the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study over the Rieman Center, a heavily-used undergraduate dance space, and the administration is now unabashedly trying to convert its failure into a perception of success.

The administration argues that the loss of some of the QRAC’s capacity is not much of a burden on the Quad community because the space is currently underutilized, and that the QRAC’s renovation will help bring traffic to the Quad.

But the QRAC is only underutilized because the College has invested too little in its upkeep. Out of date exercise machines make the QRAC’s lower floor resemble more of a torture chamber than a modern weight room. This state of disrepair has forced most of the exercise traffic on the Quad to the House gyms, which, though not particularly well funded, are superior to the QRAC in quality.

But with respect to the proposed location of the dance space, the underutilization of the QRAC’s weights and cardiovascular equipment is simply not germane. Teeming with flawed logic, the administration’s argument also ignores that the QRAC area most heavily utilized by students—the basketball courts—is the area that will be reduced by the renovation.

The College owes it to Quad residents, now more than ever, to improve the space available for recreational athletics. First, the College should provide money for the improvement of the House gyms and for new equipment for the renovated QRAC. Second, the College should ask the Law School to extend the hours of Hemenway Gymnasium, especially during the projected two-year period during which at least a part of the QRAC will be closed for renovations. Third, student involvement in creating the vision for the redesigned QRAC is necessary and admirable, but Quad residents—not just dancers—should be placed on the renovation committee. These concessions are necessary, but updated equipment at the QRAC—an acquisition that could have been made at any time—would still not compensate Quad residents for the scarce indoor team athletic space that will be lost by the reconstruction.

Harvard’s dance programs desperately need space in the QRAC. However, Quad residents, who do not have easy access to the facilities at the Malkin Athletic Center, also deserve decent facilities for individual and team athletics that can be used throughout the long, Cambridge winter. Because of the College’s failures, one of these can no longer be achieved, and no amount of spin on the College’s part can change that.

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