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Harvard, #1 Party School

That’s a #Hashtag

By Elizabeth C. Bloom

As I finished up a rowdy spring break (or, as some call it, SpRiNg BrEaK) with friends last weekend, I couldn’t help but think: This is the ultimate college life. Spending time with the people I enjoy; cheering on my peers in the NCAA basketball tournament; watching a recent alumnus, Jeremy Lin ’10, soar to celebrity heights, just as puns also make a comeback (the vio-Lin section of my orchestra had a field day); eating, drinking, and being merry. During this week off, I realized that I go to Harvard, the greatest party school in the history of the world.

Or so I thought. I checked outside sources to confirm that Harvard has the best social scene in higher education, confidently searching on Google for the Princeton Review’s rankings of the best party schools. To my dismay, the annual survey, which has ratings whose inconsistencies are exceeded by only Flyby Blog’s house rankings, placed Harvard…nowhere on the list. The top slot last year went to Ohio University, which is known for the Athens Halloween Street Party, an annual “event” (if you can call it that) that draws over 20,000 people every fall. How lame is that?

Apparently, outsiders think that Harvard is socially deficient. I eagerly clicked on one article with the headline “Princeton Review: Harvard Is #1 Party School.” Sadly, it turned out to be a joke, facetiously claiming that some of our top gatherings included a Ballroom Dance-o-rama (at least the after-party was fun!), a Shakespeare Sonnet Night with Elena Kagan ’86 (it was a going-away party), or a Timed Rubik’s Cube Competition (okay, that was one time).

On the other hand, the radio show This American Life mentioned Harvard in its episode about the #1 party school in the country, according to the Princeton Review. To clarify, the broadcast featured Penn State, which topped the list in 2009. But Harvard did get a shout-out; the show’s host, Ira Glass, mentioned the Harvard School of Public Health’s study about “what schools tend to have the heaviest drinking.” Go Crimson!

Despite our poor reputation, I don’t see any failings in the Harvard social scene. Sure, we don’t have a student center, but who needs one when you already have fantastic outlets for mingling, like Lamont Café on Burrito Night or ISawYouHarvard on any night? I had never heard the phrase “social space” prior to coming to Harvard, though I quickly learned how to incorporate it into my daily lexicon (hint: use it instead of “big room”). Harvard lacks social spaces, so goes the argument, but perhaps those who complain simply don’t see how great we have it. Rather than put typical spaces (like rooms) into cliché places (like buildings), the Harvard Common Spaces program instead inaugurated a temporary ice skating rink this winter and plunks a few colorful seats in Harvard Yard every spring. Now, I don’t know of any other school with social spaces more exciting than a cold, un-walkable ground or a bunch of metal chairs. And how could we forget Yardfest, the pinnacle of social activity that takes place every spring? Only Harvard provides enough funding for a band that was featured in last year’s one-hit-wonder’s one hit. Das awesome.

Perhaps it is in Harvard administrators’ best interest not to let our party-hardy reputation creep beyond the Yard. But as someone who has experienced almost zero shortcomings in Harvard social life over the course of my four years here, I feel obliged to improve outside perception of Harvard. To that end, I declare: Harvard has the best social scene in the whole universe. We are the #1 Party School.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going for a quick skate around the Science Center—that is, as long as the ice hasn’t melted yet.

Elizabeth C. Bloom ’12, a Crimson editorial writer, is a social studies concentrator in Currier House. Her column appears on alternate Mondays.

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