Party On

Despite a few disappointments, undergraduate social life continues to surge forward

For Joe Student’s social life this past year, the scene was often mixed. It’s easy to feel that for every big step forward Harvard’s social scene takes, it takes two big steps backward. But for once, we feel the opposite is true. This year, a host of advances in our social lifes—including the creation of Pub Night, a new blocking group arrangement, and the widespread implementation of later party hours—far outpaced the two steps backward of years past.

These accomplishments were enabled largely by the College’s new “fun czar.” Although Harvard was lampooned in the national media for creating the position, Zac A Corker ’04 served ably in his one-year term. To name a few of his accomplishments: He worked with University Hall and the Boston Police Department (BPD) to hammer out the details of this year’s Harvard-Yale tailgate. He convinced the puritanical Cambridge Licensing Commission to allow parties in House common areas to end an hour later. And he spearheaded nearly every detail of Pub Night, from placating rightfully nervous deans to scrubbing Loker Commons’ tables post-bash. We are glad to see that Corker has been re-hired for another year to oversee the creation of a permanent pub in Loker, and we hope that Justin H. Haan ’05, who was chosen as next year’s party planner-in-chief, will work to provide a similar boost to the undergraduate social scene that Corker did.

The Loker Pub Nights, long mentioned by students as a pie-in-the-sky fantasy, finally came to fruition this year after Corker, University Hall deans, Veritas Records, and Harvard Student Agencies collaborated to throw the regular beer-cum-live band events in Loker Commons. Especially successful on the otherwise party-free nights before standardized tests, Pub Nights attracted a wide range of students with its centralized location, cheap drinks, and lively atmosphere. Pub Nights were also highly accessible to freshmen, who, without House affiliations, are often left out of the party loop.

Loker was not the only social space that was revitalized this school year: there was a resurgence of parties in House common areas, for example, and the Harvard Social Forum’s building at 45 Mt. Auburn St. provided an interesting alternative to traditional room parties. (On the other hand, it’s been a while since we’ve heard the walls vibrate at 21 South St., and the Sorrento Square stoop continued its tradition of perpetual lameness.) Since student groups comprise students’ primary social circles, we applaud the efforts of the Office of the Dean of the College to reconsider its recognition of student groups, including those that are not currently coed. Finally, it’s easy to overlook the contribution of Felipe’s Taqueria to the late-late-night scene. Routinely pushing past Cambridge’s limits on its closing time, Felipe’s has provided a lively, centrally located space for students to gather and chow down after the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) finishes its party-busting. Where the Undergraduate Council (UC) had a hand in issues of social life, the results were decidedly mixed. The good: The UC’s party fund, flush with extra cash from the increased student activities fee, gave even more party hosts than before a boost of cash for their bashes. The student group grants process benefited similarly from the termbill fee, allowing the UC to fund student groups more substantially than it had in the past. And after some logistical confusion, the UC managed to fund House Committees at the levels it had promised. We encourage the UC to provide even more funding for House Committees (HoCos), which produce a wide variety of dry and wet social events, and are likely the most effective use of student dollars in constructing a vibrant social life.

By far, the most successful initiative the UC undertook with respect to campus social life was its advocacy for the House Neighborhood and Blocking Alignment System, which will allow for two blocking groups to be placed in adjacent residential houses. The plan, which was unanimously approved by the Committee on House Life and by House Masters, is almost certain to be implemented. No longer will two sets of best friends have to bridge the Quad-River gap in order to stay in touch.

The bad: The UC’s Campus Life Committee (CLC), also sitting on a fatter wallet, was decreasingly effective in planning meaningful social events for the college community. The year started off well, with the CLC landing Bob Dylan for a fall concert. But last winter’s Jim Breuer comedy show and this semester’s Springfest event were underwhelming and underattended. While we continue to support the basic mission of the CLC to plan campus-wide social events, we implore the CLC to put its collective ear to the ground to try to figure out what kinds of events students will actually attend and enjoy.

We are also reserved about the prospects for the Harvard-Yale tailgate when it hits Allston next in 2006. Tedious and meticulous negotiations between University Hall, HoCos, the UC, and the BPD originally yielded an agreement with which nearly all were satisfied: no kegs, no UHauls, and wristbands to regulate a central beer supply. In the wake of the safe and successful event, the BPD accused Harvard officials of misleading them about the size and scope of the party. In most cases, the BPD’s concerns can be addressed with a few logistical changes: more port-a-johns and more tailgate entrances. But their central concern—that the tailgate encourages irresponsible drinking among students—cannot be addressed except by canceling the event. The College is serious about student safety (indeed, thanks to a medical tent at the tailgate there were no serious cases of alcohol poisoning). Its pragmatic stance towards underage drinking should be adopted by the BPD. That way, when issues related to partying and underage drinking inevitably reappear when Harvard builds undergraduate housing in Allston in the coming years, the two sides will already have common ground on which to build.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. But with better student group funding, widespread 2 a.m. party hours, and more venues to get your boogie on, undergraduate social life has improved significantly over the past year. We can only hope next year holds similar prospects.