The Office of the Dean of Harvard College is looking for a few good members of the Class of 2007 to address one of Harvard’s most widely perceived shortcomings—a lackluster social life.
In its latest effort to promote a sense of community and class identity, the office is organizing a 13-student commission to create a social event for the entire junior class.
The Junior Class Events Commission, which under a different name has in years past planned Junior Parent’s Weekend—organizing receptions, museum open houses, and arts performances—will now be given free reign to hold a class-wide social activity in the coming year.
While freshmen have their own orientation week and formal, seniors have Senior Week, and sophomores are busy getting acquainted to House life, there is a dearth of class-wide social occasions for juniors, said Campus Life Fellow Justin H. Haan ’05. Haan, one of three advisors to the new commission, said he hopes it will help bring the class together.
“There’s a lot of bureaucracy at Harvard that’s been sort of hands off,” said Haan. “We’re trying to empower undergrads to manage their own social lives.”
While some students said they are enthusiastic about the new commission, which will parallel the work of the Senior Class Committee and the First-Year Social Committee, others said they are more skeptical.
Jack P. McCambridge ’06, the founder and distiller of last year’s Junior Class Pregame Committee, a group organized through the social networking site facebook.com, said he supports the College’s efforts to build community through class identity.
“I’m glad to hear that Harvard has given up on the idea that the only effective way to create community is within the Houses,” said McCambridge, who is also running for the Senior Class Committee. “What a fallacy.”
“The best way to generate a more cohesive sense of community is to do it based on class year,” McCambridge added.
After freshman year, McCambridge said he had a year of withdrawal symptoms from not eating with his class at Annenberg Hall, where he said the sense of community was palpable.
But while McCambridge favors a class-based paradigm, other students said the Houses provide community enough, and that it will be difficult to convince students to socialize outside of their immediate group of friends.
“Social life on campus could be better for all the grades,” said Jessica L. Jones ’06, the co-chair of the Mather House Council. “But I identify much more with Mather than with the Class of ’06. I have more friends in all grades in Mather than in the Class of ’06.”
Two years ago, the Undergraduate Council (UC) held a junior class night at the Hong Kong Restaurant, but attendance was sparse and the event was not held again, said Aaron D. Chadbourne ’06, the former chair of the UC’s Student Affairs Committee and a current candidate for Senior Class Marshal.
“By the time you’re a junior you have your set of friends well established, and people have a tendency to stop reaching out,” he said. “People have to buy into the concept.”
Haan said that since the students on the commission will choose what type of event to host, he thinks it will appeal to a large number of juniors. He added that he hopes the event will reinvigorate some bonds made freshman year and bring people together who would not otherwise see each other.
“Last spring, when I was graduating, they had the Senior Olympics in the stadium, and it was a blast,” he said. “But the thing that pervaded it was people turning to each other and saying, ‘Why didn’t we do this before?’”
Haan said this is a common sentiment, and that the Office of the Dean is acting in response to many requests for more junior class events.
“This is an example of the willingness of the Dean’s Office to innovate and be nimble in response to students’ needs,” he said.
Over the past two years, the Office of the Dean has been working to foster more inter-House, campus-wide interaction and communication. The House Committees now meet with each other every month, and the College held its first campus-wide welcome back party, Harvard State Fair, this fall.
The Office of the Dean will choose the 13 members of the commission through an application process, which will look for students with experience planning large events, said Haan. The office will seek to have representatives from across all the Houses.