Anticipating Boston hotels’ concerns about potential liability risks associated with hosting the College’s annual freshman formal, organizers have opted to hold the event on campus, outside on the Science Center Plaza, in late April this year.
The move will mark the first time that Harvard has hosted freshman formal on campus since at least 2007, according to Katherine W. Steele, the College’s director for freshman programming who oversees the event alongside the First-Year Social Committee. In the past, the College has hosted the event at hotels throughout Boston.
Steele said organizers began considering holding the event on campus after anticipating that it might be difficult to find a space large enough to accommodate 1,200 students. In addition, Steele said hotels in the area have expressed reservations in response to alcohol-related incidents not restricted to Harvard-sponsored events.
Last year’s freshman formal, which took place at the Seaport Boston Hotel, ended one hour early after hotel staff raised concerns about intoxicated students in attendance.
This year, Steele said, she and other organizers “didn’t even try” to arrange the event at a hotel, partly because they anticipated that it would be difficult to negotiate an arrangement especially with the few venues that were large enough to host the dance. While Steele said she does not fault the hotels for having concerns about liability risks, she said hosting the event off campus created a unique feel.
“It makes the whole experience of a formal different, so it’s too bad that it’s hard to make that happen now because of all these factors,” Steele said.
Still, Steele said hosting the formal on the Science Center Plaza will save costs. Renting the tent for the formal will cost $2,500, which is “far, far less” than the total cost of renting a hotel venue, Steele said. The College will also not need to pay for transportation back to Cambridge at the close of the dance.
Organizers pushed the date from mid-February to April 29 because the tent in the plaza will not open until around that time and they anticipate that the weather will be more favorable later in the spring.
While undergraduates will still purchase tickets for the dance, the First-Year Social Committee hopes to offer reduced ticket prices this year, according to Wyatt M. Robertson ’18, a co-chair of the formal. Those prices will depend on the budget for the dance, which the committee has not yet finalized, Robertson added.
Steele and Robertson said organizers also have more power to arrange catering, decorations, and other planning specific to this year’s James Bond theme because the event is on campus.
“It does put more of a burden on us, but we like it, and so we have to do a lot more of the planning this year, but overall, we’re saving the students a lot more money,” Robertson said.
Gretty Garcia ’18, also a c0-chair of the formal, said she hopes the dance will attract more freshmen because of the Science Center Plaza’s proximity to Harvard Yard.
—Staff writer Noah J. Delwiche can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ndelwiche.
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