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Undergraduate Council Gauges Student Opinion on Social Life

By Stephanie B. Garlock, Crimson Staff Writer

Social spaces and administrative barriers for student groups throwing parties remain some of the problems with social life at Harvard, according to participants at last night’s Undergraduate Council-led dinner discussions on social life.

The two discussions, which were held simultaneously in Pforzheimer and Eliot Houses, each attracted about 10 students interested in brainstorming ways to change the social scene at Harvard.

Organized by the UC’s newly-formed Social Life Task Force, the discussions aimed to help the task force formulate questions for the Council’s upcoming survey on social life.

After hosting similar events this Sunday in Mather House and next Monday in the Straus Hall Common Room, the task force expects to send a final survey to students early next week, according to task force chair Matthew S. Coe-Odess ’12.

“It’s understood that Harvard social life needs to be improved and that large groups of students are unhappy,” Coe-Odess said.

While UC President Johnny F. Bowman ’11 said that the issues brought up at the discussions—including social space—were not “surprising,” the events will still help the UC tailor the survey questions to student interest.

“We had addressed a lot of the points that were talked about, but it’s good to hear from people outside the UC—that they’re thinking about the same issues that we are,” Bowman said.

Coe-Odess also said he was not surprised by the attendees’ emphasis on social space. Many expressed frustration at the difficulties that students and clubs without real estate have in finding places to host parties, and the lack of space for individuals to branch out socially after freshman year.

“At other colleges, there are more opportunities for spontaneous interactions to meet people,” said Ilya Chalik ’11. “[At Harvard] there’s the Science Center. There’s Greenhouse Cafe, where everyone’s constantly typing on their laptops, finishing a problem set.”

Other issues that attendees focused on included the role of House life in defining students’ social experiences and the administrative red tape that prevents students from taking advantage of available spaces such as the Lowell Grille.

“We need the administration to want us to have a good time,” Coe-Odess said.

After the survey, the task force plans to hold more informal discussions and a larger symposium to share the results with students and continue the discussion of social life on campus.

“We really want students to know what their peers said,” Coe-Odess said.

—Staff writer Stephanie B. Garlock can be reached at sgarlock@college.harvard.

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