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Lamont Student Center?

Library space does not equal social space.

By Matthew S. Meisel

If you think the melée-cum-protest that was last Monday night at Lamont is going to be a one-time event, think again. Sure, Lamont may not be over fire code capacity any time soon, but if Monday’s attendance was any indication, Harvardians are ready to embrace Lamont as a student center. After all, it has everything we would want in a student center: it’s centrally located (unless you live in the Quad), it has a movie theater (if you’re happy with those computer monitors in Morse Music and Media), it has comfortable nooks for chatting with friends (next to the diesel-powered industrial photocopiers in the basement), and (lo!) it will soon have a café with a wide menu (single, double, triple, and quadruple espresso shots).

Just string a “Lamont Student Center” banner between Pusey Library and Loeb House, and undergrads will descend. I know that Lamont Library—er, Student Center—is the first place I’d go on, say, a Friday evening when I want to chill before I go out on the town.

Or not.

You can’t blame we wee undergrads for flooding Lamont on Monday night because, with its generous hours (thank you, UC and U-Hall), central location, and imminent café, Lamont is indeed the closest thing we have to a student center. But as the Undergraduate Council, University Hall, and now Mass. Hall continue to make-over Lamont into a more fun, relaxing, chill, and totally radical experience, any calls to create a real student center in the Yard will be drowned out. This would be convenient for the administration, but not so great for students, who are left—again—with a library as a hangout. (Watch out, US News!)

A library is for studying. A student center is for chilling. And by conflating the two, Harvard is inexorably and irreversibly confusing its charges about the nature of work and play. At a university where some students already seem to have trouble separating the two, we hardly need Lamont Student Center to confuse us any more.

Matthew S. Meisel ’07, an associate editorial chair, is a chemistry concentrator in Currier House.

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