Harvard has long faced criticism, including from this newspaper, over its lack of social space. Without locations on campus that facilitate interaction between diverse sectors of the Harvard community, many undergraduates have been driven off campus to institutions—final clubs for example—that are far from ideal for social interaction. Meanwhile, during this economic downturn, organizations throughout the world, be they governments, businesses, or universities, have been forced to adopt austerity measures that limit spending and emphasize fiscal restraint. Harvard students themselves have fallen victim to this curtailment, as evidenced by the absence of hot breakfasts in the twelve upperclass Houses. This time, however, Harvard College’s administration deserves commendation for taking steps in establishing and supporting potential solutions to its social space woes in spite of an uncertain fiscal climate. The latest indication that the school is committed to change is its recent decision to fund Cabot Café, the student-operated coffeehouse that has become a popular destination in the Quad.
The College and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences granted the café $70,000 that will be used to add power outlets, improve lighting and kitchen equipment, and adorn the walls with student artwork. Jesse J. Kaplan ’13, the founder and general manager of Cabot Café, claims 50 to 100 students frequented the coffeehouse each night during its inaugural semester, a number that is sure to rise as the word about the establishment spreads. The café has already garnered popularity on campus and will likely continue to do so after current renovations improve the already attractive atmosphere. Undergrads who live in the Quad badly need more space to relax in a non-residential setting that is nonetheless close to their homes. We are excited about the future of the venue, which has become a popular place for friends and classmates to convene on campus.
The support of Cabot Café, a student creation, is the latest in a concerted effort on Harvard’s part to enhance student life. Another undertaking of note is the establishment of the ice rink outside the Science Center, the latest in a series of efforts from the Common Spaces program. While some of the actions of the program have been lackluster, “Harvard Skate” is an innovative way to provide students the opportunity to interact with one another in an unconventional setting. The rink operates with free admissions, the only fee being a five-dollar skate rental for those who do not possess their own pair. This high level of affordability is an impressive demonstration of Harvard’s desire to respond to criticisms about the availability of such recreational spaces with a fun and affordable option. Hopefully, the administration will continue to recognize the benefits of endeavors like the recent opening of Cabot Café and the ice rink, and will strive to take further necessary steps to make this school a more open and enjoyable place.