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Harvard’s deficient social life is surely no secret. Some blame it on the students, the culture, or even the climate, but assigning blame will never change the simple truth: Harvard is not as fun as other colleges. But, thankfully, at least for one night of the year, Harvard has a secret weapon: Mather House’s foam party. The renowned Mather Lather is the cornerstone of springtime campus life, the sine qua non of fun at Harvard, the one night of the year where Harvardians can really party outside of a sweaty dorm room or final club.
Given the importance of this coming weekend’s Mather Lather to the undergraduate community’s social well-being, nearly everyone expected broad community support for the Lather. The Undergraduate Council’s (UC) daft refusal to pay (even partly) for one of the two requisite foam machines, therefore, struck a chord of disappointment among already socially disenchanted students. With this final straw on Mather’s back, the Mather House Committee has decided to declare its independence from the UC—effective 11:59 April 28 (i.e. the midpoint of this weekend’s Mather Lather).
The UC’s decision, based on fears that the other 11 houses would subsequently ask for foam machines if the UC were to set a precedent of funding one, ironically ignored UC precedent of funding the same expense in past years. With a single vote against foam, the Council reneged on the tradition of interdependence between Harvard and Mather, whereby Mather provides fun and Harvard supports her.
Myopic UC members contended that since they give each House $4700 at the beginning of the semester, there is no need to fund additional HoCo projects throughout the year. But the most exciting campus party is also the most expensive (and time-consuming) to organize. The costs of lumber, Super Foam Dome foam machines, soap solution, the DJ, and typical party expenses total to over $6000. Moreover, because Mather (HoCo) is dedicated to keeping the event accessible to all students, it chooses to keep ticket prices low. But Mather HoCo’s budget suffers from daring to throw such a tremendous party.
The UC’s inflexible funding provides a disincentive for houses to throw parties for the entire campus community. For each dollar that House Councils spend on big parties, they lose a dollar that would otherwise benefit their immediate constituents in the form of Happy Hours, Stein Clubs, or House formals. Mather House, and a few other party-centric Houses, are victims of a campus-wide free rider problem.
This campus can ill-afford to see its great House parties pushed out of existence by the UC’s unjust funding policies. Although the UC understandably has a finite budget, it should nevertheless make improving social life on campus a priority. Friday nights at Lamont Library too often witness clusters of disappointed students ejected at closing time, forced to seek social pleasure only because of the hours of their study space. The College Events Board has relied on events such as Disney sing-alongs and the “Freshman Costume Catwalk” in attempts to spark fun on this campus.
The Crimson reported in October that the Class of 2006’s mean response regarding social satisfaction in the senior class survey was “below the ‘satisfied’ level,” and Harvard College had a disappointing showing in social life in the most recent Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE) survey. Surely, the UC’s inflexible funding system for HoCos promises to worsen this already dire situation of lack-of-fun on this campus.
But rather than acquiesce to ineffectiveness like the UC, Mather House has decided to take action in order to guarantee fun at Harvard. Within hours of the UC vote, Mather HoCO passed an Ordinance of Secession, proclaiming her deliberate and unapologetic plan to sever all ties with Harvard University through the leadership of the Mather Revolutionary Forces. Detractors call the measure radical, but truly it was the only option for an abused house.
Starting next year, the UC’s funds will be deprived of each Mather House resident’s $75 student activities fee (or at least that’s our hope). With Mather’s roughly 430 residents, that would amount to $33,000—or approximately 4 times the amount of funding that the UC currently provides Mather HoCo. The sheer amount of fun that those funds would provide is simply unfathomable.
Ultimately, the plight of Mather House is the interest of all fun-loving students at Harvard. Two houses (namely, the host of the failed “Glowell” rave and the home of a tower which seems prepubescent next to Mather’s 18-story Goliath) have already threatened a counter-revolution, but this historic moment is a greater opportunity for teamwork than for animosity. Houses should join together with Mather in celebration of the great and often suppressed rights of Harvardians: hedonistic pleasure, political self-determination, and foam parties.
This turn of events, an abrupt secession and the prospect of inter-house war, is therefore a call-to-arms not merely for Matherites but for all houses sympathetic to the concept of “fun.” Mather House invites all students to join forces against tyranny this Saturday, April 28, at the Mather Lather. Tickets are $10.
Giselle Barcia ’08, a Crimson editorial editor, is an English and American literature and language concentrator in Mather House. Matthew R. Greenfield ’08, is a government concentrator in Mather House. Nikhil G. Mathews ’08, a Crimson editorial editor, is a government concentrator in Mather House.
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