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Student Groups Expect To Move

By Margaret W. Ho and Risheng Xu, Crimson Staff Writerss

The College plans to evict nearly all student groups from offices in Harvard Yard and force them to move to the Radcliffe Quadrangle, sparking an immediate outcry from group leaders.

The move will make room for more freshman social space in the Yard, Assistant Dean of the College Paul J. McLoughlin II told group leaders last night.

A handful of groups that are primarily focused on freshmen—such as the First-Year Outdoor Program and the Prefect Program—will keep their current homes, McLoughlin said at the meeting in Emerson Hall.

Peer counseling groups will also be exempt from the eviction, the vice-president of operations for the Harvard International Relations Council, Todd Van Stolk-Riley ’06 said.

Van Stolk-Riley estimated that around 30 student groups are housed in the Yard basements.

Leaders of the groups being forced to the Quad complained that their new offices in the Hilles Building will not be sound-proof, and that the groups will not be able to carry on sensitive discussions in private.

The co-chair of the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance, Michael A. Feldstein ’07, said at the meeting that the lack of sound-proof space in Hilles could be particularly problematic for his group, which often conducts conversations with students who want to keep their sexual orientation private.

Feldstein is also a Crimson editorial editor.

McLoughlin told group leaders that zoning guidelines bar the College from constructing ground-to-ceiling walls in the Hilles space. The groups’ offices will be separated by bookshelves and curtains, he said.

An architect from the Boston-based firm Kennedy & Violich also said at the meeting that budgetary constraints blocked the College from more extensive renovations at Hilles, according to the director of strategy and operations for Harvard Model Congress, Daniel A. Dunay ’06.

McLoughlin declined to comment for this article.

“The very nature of most of our organizations is that we need privacy,” said the publisher of the Harvard Salient, Ryan M. McCaffrey ’07. “Most of all, we need to be able to lock up things in an office. We have a lot of sensitive stuff in our office that we can’t have in the open,” he added.

Some student groups who rely on the central location of the Yard to organize large-scale events said Hilles would require an organizational change within the club.

“HMUN holds a one-day conference for 2,600 high school students in 24 Yard classrooms.” Van-Stolk Riley, who is also director general of HMUN, said. “None of this can happen without a centrally located office space. We cannot do this from Hilles.”

Although McLoughlin’s announcement provoked an uproar from group leaders, it came after an 18-month process in which the dean and students on a special task force of the Committee on College Life examined the potential move.

The co-head of the Harvard Intercollegiate Model UN Team, Nicholas Vidnovic III, expressed disappointment with the outcome of the process. “When administrators make decisions without a lot of student input, it detracts from student satisfaction,” he said.

A member of the task force, Theodore E. Chestnut ’06, defended the process, saying that some student group leaders were included throughout.

Undergraduate Council Matthew J. Glazer ’06 said the move “has the potential to create more social space for freshmen—which they are sorely lacking.”

But Glazer expressed concerns that some groups evicted from Yard basements might not get space in Hilles.

“It might be the case where some groups that presently have an office might not get one,” Glazer said. “It’s my hope that groups can successfully be relocated and those that don’t currently have space can eventually have space.”

Student groups already face the problem that their offices are too small to hold meetings, according to the executive co-chair of the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations, Edward H. Thai ’07. He said that currently, offices are relatively close to the spaces in the Yard where groups hold their meetings—but that won’t be the case after the Hilles move. “It’s just doubling the problem,” he said.

The president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Association, Eveleen S. Hsu ’07, said that groups need to keep their meetings close to freshman dorms in order to woo new members. “I think the freshman social space is a good idea, but student groups need to stay close to the Yard,” she said.

“The administration is set on enhancing the Harvard experience for undergraduates,” Dunay said. “Attacking student groups and essentially forcing them to pack up and move to some obscure location that doesn’t give them the space they need is not the way to do it.”

Student Affairs Committee chair Tara Gadgil ’07 said that the proposal was still in negotiations. “The UC is going to work with student groups that have existing office space to determine the best solution for their group, while in discussion with the administration about their plans for freshman social space,” Gadgil, a candidate for UC vice president, said.

The UC, whose office is housed in Holworthy, may also relocate to the Quad.

“There’s a lot of justifications for having a centrally located office,” Glazer said. “But we want to make sure that fair criteria is developed for all student groups, including the UC.”

—Staff writer Margaret W. Ho can be reached at mwho@fas.harvard.edu. —Staff writer Risheng Xu can be reached at xu4@fas.harvard.edu.

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