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After being found in violation of several fire code and zoning laws last spring, the Harvard Advocate has authorized extensive repairs to its dilapidated 21 South St. headquarters, complying with University requests to renovate the 48-year-old building.
The repairs, which include the installation of a new boiler and fire alert system, seek to address safety concerns leveled by College administrators last March, after a walk-through of the building revealed a damaged roof, a broken boiler, and the absence of emergency lighting.
A party last spring that raised complaints from neighbors attracted College attention to the building, which is owned by the University but leased to the Advocate for $1 a year.
“When we became aware of unregistered parties where HUPD [Harvard University Police Department] presence was absent, we worked with the student group and the Trustees of the Advocate to address our safety concerns with the building,” said Assistant Dean of the College Paul J. McLoughlin II. He said that chief among administrators’ concerns were the wiring of emergency lights and additional smoke detectors, as well as the removal of a mattress.
Since the Advocate is zoned as a business, McLoughlin said, it cannot permit students to sleep there.
According to Advocate President Andrews Little ’05, many of the University’s grievances have already been tended to, like repairs to the building’s roof and chimney as well as the removal of back issues of the magazine from the staircase.
Little denied that a mattress was ever present in the headquarters, explaining that though the Advocate “through its fledgling has unapologetically spawned offshoot publications like The Crimson (in 1873) and The Lampoon (in 1876), no spawning occurs at 21 South St. that would necessitate a mattress,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Despite the recent renovations, McLoughlin said that more external repairs still need to be done—particularly to the outdated and poorly maintained rook and gutter system of the building. Little admitted that repairs are not yet complete and that plans to install additional lights and refurbish the floor in the Sanctum have already been approved.
“We are very appreciative of Dean McLoughlin’s help, and the Advocate and its trustees will remain in dialogue with University Hall to establish a schedule of preventive maintenance to keep the building in good repair,” Little said.
While Little and the Advocate trustees declined to comment on the cost of renovations, they have acknowledged plans to hold a fund-raiser in early 2005 to pay for repairs and celebrate the publication of a special issue honoring the late George Plympton.
Louis Begley ’54, who chairs the Advocate’s board of trustees, said that he is certain that the generosity of alumni will keep the publication’s financial affairs sound.
“I have no doubt that the College administration is right to keep an eye on the building, and that the alumni, undergraduates and trustees will do what is required,” Begley said.
“The Advocate looks forward to the day when it is no longer harried by telephone, e-mail, and Ouija board queries regarding the minutiae of its building repairs,” Little said, “so it may resume its necessary role as wet nurse to the students whose artistic or autistic sensibilities Harvard has, as of yet, failed to kill or cure.”
For Begley, the Advocate’s rich history, firmly rooted in the achievements of T.S. Eliot and E.E. Cummings, make the struggle to maintain its South St. building all the more pressing.
“It would be a huge cultural loss to the University and to the students if the venue for publishing the undergraduates’ creative efforts were compromised or lost,” Begley said.
This is not the first time the University has intervened to order repairs on a student group building—in the spring of 2003, it announced plans for major renovations to the Hasty Pudding building on Holyoke Street, which have still yet to be completed.
—Staff Writer Kimberley A. Kicenuik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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