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It has become second nature among Harvard students to criticize the dominance of single-gender final clubs on Harvard’s social scene. After all, final clubs are reputed to host the most—and most popular—parties, while more inclusive and welcoming alternatives are few and far between, consisting mostly of student group-sponsored events in larger student suites. Though some students have begun to seek refuge at bars and restaurants off campus, the most natural solution is within the College rather than outside its walls: The twelve upperclassmen Houses of the College have long been able to provide ready-made communities and necessary resources for large parties. Until recently, however, they have not done that job.
Thankfully, this is starting to change. The Houses and their House masters are taking note of students’ desires for more open party spaces in the Houses themselves. Last spring, Pforzheimer House unveiled a renovated party space open for House events and student reservations. More recently, Adams and Cabot houses have followed suit created similar common spaces that are suitable for large student parties. Though there are differences between the new spaces—Pfoho renovated the former On Harvard Time studios, while Cabot revamped its junior common room and Adams created a new space—the desire to provide more inclusive student social spaces is common among all three Houses. We applaud the Houses for taking an important step toward bringing students back to on-campus spaces for parties and social events while also fostering greater House community.
There is a tension, rarely discussed, that arises in opening House common spaces for parties: The elephant in the room is underage drinking. Off-campus or in a private student room, the College has no direct presence and underage drinking is tacitly allowed. The strength of enforcement in these new, more public spaces remains to be seen, but it is difficult for the College to do more. Both legally and in liability terms, the College cannot provide spaces in which underage students are openly allowed to consume alcohol. Placing limits on alcohol consumption in these new social spaces does not detract from their impact—this is still a laudable method to promote inclusivity within the bounds of possibility.
In creating new common spaces for all students, the House masters of Adams, Cabot, and Pforzheimer have shown a real desire to help improve the social life of undergraduates at the College. We hope that more Houses choose to follow suit and encourage similar initiatives in the future.
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