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Seneca Finds Home in Square

By Nicole B. Urken, Crimson Staff Writer

The Seneca, an all-female social club, announced yesterday that it has begun leasing an office and meeting space in Harvard Square for the first time in the group’s history.

The Seneca, which has about 50 members, has made it a top priority to find its own space since its inception in the spring of 1999, establishing a Development-Real Estate Committee for that purpose.

But between high Cambridge rents and a limited base of alumnae donations, the group had to struggle to put together the funds to do so.

According to members of the Seneca, finding a space of their own was crucial to promoting the visibility of women’s groups on campus and addressing the lack of social space for women at Harvard.

“The acquisition of space specifically devoted to women is both a symbolic and tangible advancement for Harvard’s campus,” Seneca President Jane Kim ’05 wrote in an e-mail.

In January, the group started the lease on its Zero Arrow Street headquarters—which encompasses an office, two conference rooms, a kitchen, a patio, and an auditorium, in addition to an open space on the first floor, where they may run a coffee shop.

“[This] is the result of our development efforts since The Seneca’s founding, a true testament to the steady dedication of Seneca members,” Seneca Development-Real Estate Chair Sewit M. Teckie ’05 wrote in an e-mail.

Other female social clubs have made deliberate efforts to acquire social space, including the Isis’ truncated lease on a one-bedroom apartment last year—but still have found themselves unable to compete with the larger, more well-endowed male final clubs.

“The Seneca’s new space...is a testament to how far we have come and how far we still need to go,” Kim wrote.

“Having been at Harvard for four years and in The Seneca for three, I understand the challenges and institutionalized inequalities that women and women’s groups face socially, academically, and professionally on our campus,” she added.

Recently, the acquisition of space for women’s clubs has been a much-discussed topic, in light of the University’s plans for undergraduate life in Allston.

“Space is continuously an issue at Harvard: for student groups, for classes, to host events, and particularly for women,” Kim wrote.

And Seneca graduate board president Kathleen M. Duffy ’01 said that the lack of a meeting or party space for the club had “diluted the presence” of women’s groups on campus.

The Seneca, which holds an open application process, is hoping to pursue other real estate options which would allow for larger parties.

But in the meantime, they will continue to use outside venues for its campus-wide events, like the Red Party and Frost.

—Staff writer Nicole B. Urken can be reached at urken@fas.harvard.edu.

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