At Harvard, Social Space Woes Have a Long Past

Part II in a Three Part Series

The most definitive administrative support that the student center movement received came from Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III and his 1998 proposal for the creation of an all-inclusive “College Hall.”

“The single site is a way of enhancing community at the College,” Epps told the Crimson in 1999.

Yet even at the time, Epps was an exception among administrators.


“The proposal for a student center is not getting the support from my colleagues that it needs,” he added.

As Epps and student leaders lobbied for a student center, administrators searched for decentralized solutions.


“[Top administrators] agreed with many of the needs we identified, but not necessarily that it needed to be a student center,” Cohen remembers of his meetings with the administration as part of the Student Center Working Group.

Student center advocates such as Camp, Cohen, and Epps have run into the reality of space at Harvard—it is limited and expensive.

“Space is our one irreplaceable resource,” Lewis, while serving as dean of Harvard College, wrote in a 1999 memorandum to then-Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Jeremy R. Knowles. “Once land is gone, it is gone forever.”

Under Gross’s tenure from 2003 to 2007, the College attempted to create informal meeting areas and places to socialize within existing spaces, opening the Lamont Café and the Queen’s Head Pub.

Perhaps most controversially, Gross oversaw the renovation of Hilles Library in the Quad to create the Student Organizations Center at Hilles.


While the past century has seen repeated calls from undergraduates for a student center, for the first time, support from the President’s office could make it a reality.

In September during an interview with Charlie Gibson in Sanders Theatre, University President Drew G. Faust publicly entertained the idea of transforming the lower floors of the Holyoke Center into a student center.

Then, in a recent interview with The Crimson, she said that the University’s upcoming capital campaign will likely raise the funds necessary for its construction, if the University decides to go ahead with the construction of a student center in the Holyoke Center.

But students say that even if Faust commits University resources to creating a full-scale student center, it will take years to finish the space, leaving many current undergraduates echoing the complaints of students 100 years ago.

—Staff writer Julie M. Zauzmer contributed to the reporting of this article.

—Staff writer Stephanie B. Garlock can be reached at


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