Policing Parties

Students should have alternatives to calling HUPD on dorm parties

At Harvard, where the issues of adequate social space and student fun are perennial concerns, the shutting-down of just a handful of weekend parties can feel like adding insult to social injury. When the parties in question are registered, under control, and operating within the prescribed time constraints, it seems particularly heinous to evict them, dooming their several dozen partygoers to Saturday-night dejection.

Such were the circumstances at two parties in Quincy House over the past several weeks which HUPD shut down upon receiving noise complaints. These events and the adverse student reaction they precipitated led Quincy Resident Dean Judith F. Chapman to issue an email discouraging students from calling HUPD with noise complaints. While we think it unwise for administrators to advise students against calling the police, this incident has made it exceedingly clear that there ought to be formalized processes for issuing noise complaints against parties in the Houses.

A good process would begin with a call to the tutor-on-call or, alternatively, the resident dean. The police should only become involved if the in-House avenues are unresponsive or there is evidence of dangerous behavior. The House is a community of neighbors and friends, and while there will inevitably be those who wish to study while others are partying nearby, it seems antithetical to the spirit of the House community to call HUPD before first pursuing more local avenues.

If a single complaint to HUPD can end a registered, under-control party, then it calls into question the relevance of party registration in the first place. There ought to be a system by which HUPD can be made aware of registered parties, so that their registration can serve as a sort of noise permit during the allowed hours. It goes without saying that a party registration should never be construed as a blank check. If there is reason to believe that a party is out of control, people are in danger or noise levels are far beyond what could be construed as reasonable, then there are grounds for intervention.

It is important to remember that the guiding notion behind our—and others’—defense of the registered party is the House’s superiority in all respects to off-campus party locations like Final Clubs. The more inhospitable to socialization the Houses become, the greater the exodus to off-campus locations that lie outside the jurisdictional and communal umbrella of Harvard, and where unattractive gender power dynamics reign. It is in everyone’s interest to let parties flourish in the Houses.

All this in mind, we must be cognizant of the perennial need for study spaces at Harvard. Many, if not all of us, will have to spend several weekend nights a semester hitting the books. Currently, some House libraries close at night on weekends, as do Lamont and Widener. Rather than being forced to study in their rooms, surrounded by parties, students should be able to go to a library. To this end, keeping Lamont Library open 24/7 year-round, not just at exam period, should be explored.

Sure, Harvard isn’t known for being a party school. But if we respect each other’s right to blow off some steam on the weekends, as well as our necessity to study and, sometimes, just chill when we have to, then we can move in the direction of more abundant, inclusive social space.