The Undergraduate Council’s Committee on House Life (CHL) defended the idea of a student center at its meeting yesterday, pointing to the features it would bring to campus such as additional performance halls, student group space, and a cafe.
Assistant Director of Harvard Planning and Allston Initiative Kasia E. Lundy met with the committee to discuss the possibility of building a student center in Allston when the University expands across the river over the next 10 years.
The discussion centered around Lundy’s question of whether the College could design a student center without detracting from house life.
Despite some voiced concerns, the committee largely agreed that by providing alternative space for student group rehearsals, the creation of a student center in Allston could improve house life by freeing up house common room space.
“By providing a space for student organizations, Houses will be able to take on a more residential role and focus on integrating its members” said Matthew J. Glazer ’06, chair of the Student Affairs Committee.
While the construction of a student center is still a more long-term goal, the CHL discussed the importance of creating a variety of services within the center in order to attract students, such as a Starbucks coffee shop, a convenience store, a gym, a movie screen and possibly some student and administrative services.
“We made a lot of progress in the meeting, because we are no longer talking about space shortages in general. We are now talking about specific components of a social space,” Lundy said.
The CHL said that providing a larger social space for dances like the Leverett 80s dance would encourage more students to attend and bring together Harvard students more effectively.
“The student center could serve as a social center that would unite people from all different Houses and would unite freshmen with upperclassmen,” Glazer said.
The new student center could also provide a performance area accommodating approximately 500 people for groups with large audiences that are unable to book space in Sanders Theatre, which seats almost three times as many.
Lundy said that she would take the discussion back to the Allston committee. Associate Dean of the College Judith H. Kidd, who was also at the meeting, added that she would also send a survey to student groups to gauge their interest in the center.
In the meantime, administrators and students are looking toward converting underused spaces such as freshman dorm basements into meeting areas for student groups to satisfy the space demand. Hilles, which will contain some student space after its renovation this summer, has also been cited as a potential solution.
—Staff writer Nicole B. Urken can be reached at email@example.com.