The Plympton Street Hooligans

The College needs to crack down on annual Monday morning mayhem

Peter C. D. Mulcahy

What’s the matter with the inconsiderate louts who paraded around campus at four o’clock Monday morning, waking up thousands of their fellow students with drunken screaming? And why didn’t the College do anything to stop it?

Organized drunkards from the A.D. and other final clubs of both genders treated the Harvard campus to a disruptive and disrespectful chorus of screams two nights ago. Many students—including this author—were woken up in the small hours of the morning and kept awake by new choruses for an hour or more. A number of us had work to do the next day, including midterms, theses, and job interviews.

There are two problems here. First, the fact that students would think it necessary—let alone acceptable—to wake up the entire campus on the night that they choose the newest members of their organizations, is shameful. Second, the College’s lack of any attempt to prevent this ruckus annually constitutes a conscious failure to maintain quality of life in the dorms.

The fraternities and sororities—let’s call them what they really are—should not stoop to this attention-begging behavior and to be fair, some of them didn’t. The Fly, setting a good example, saved its shouting for when it had returned to the house.

In the Dunster courtyard, the A.D. was the loudest of all. Multiple rounds of “ride the bull” reinforced the already well-deserved impression of this organization as the frattiest frat on campus. Just last week, an e-mail appeared that could shed light on the culture of the A.D. and its members.

In the e-mail—dated October 25 and forwarded to the Currier House open list with the name of A.D. President Ferdinand C. Martignetti ’06 written at the bottom—the author attempted to explain a recent crack-down by the A.D.’s graduate board. The punishment included a three-week ban on “females”—I assume the author meant women but perhaps the ban included females of other species too—on Thursday and Saturday nights. The e-mail read:

“Unfortunately, a long day of drinking does make it difficult to hold one’s addition, there were numerous bottles left in the buses (we’re technically not supposed to drink on the bus), some of which were filled with urine, and spilled beer all over the seats. In my opinion, the buses were some of calmer ones I have seen at any outing, but a relatively small slip up has put us between a rock and a hard place.”

Now, I have friends who are members of the A.D. and other fraternities, and I can say with certainty that it is not entirely the individuals’ fault that they behave this way. Rather, it is the institutional culture—one of excessive drinking and drunken behavior—that pervades these groups and makes people act the way they do. Unfortunately, the way to change the destructive culture isn’t clear, but it is clear that this culture need not hurt non-members (unless they own bus companies).

Despite its failure to do so in the past, the College can and should prevent frat-like behavior from spoiling the sleep of half of its campus. This night of organized drunken screaming happens once a year and is coordinated among the clubs to be the Sunday night (Monday morning) before Harvard/Yale weekend. House Masters and tutors should plan for next year (they have fair warning) and make sure this never happens again. Their job, after all, is to look out for our well-being—including a good night’s rest.

Next year, each House should assign a tutor to turn away bands of hooligans. Pairs of silent members should be allowed to pickup new ones from their rooms, but the groups can save the celebrating for the frat houses. These organizations should be warned well ahead of time that Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) will be ready at short notice to enforce the noise ban. HUPD’s involvement—not to make arrests but to deter rowdy students—would demonstrate that the College is serious.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating the election of a new class of members to a student organization. Like countless other groups that don’t cause late night problems, fraternities and sororities can easily pickup their new members without disrupting the sleep of the rest of the campus. Just because they’ll be hung over the next day doesn’t mean we should feel their pain.

Nicholas F. B. Smyth ’05-’06 is a Government concentrator in Dunster House.