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Harvard recently announced that it would host freshman formal on campus for the first time since 2007. This decision to use the Science Center Plaza as a venue, instead of a Boston-area hotel as in years past, has left some disappointed. And perhaps this year’s event will lack a degree of the same glamor or allure. However, we commend the College for this logistically smart choice and for the important opportunity for community building it will offer members of the freshman class at the conclusion of their first year.
Financially and organizationally, the decision to move formal makes a good deal of sense. Hosting the event on the Science Center Plaza will cost just $2,500 for the tent—“far, far less” than renting space in a hotel, according to Katherine W. Steele, the College’s director for freshman programming. The decision will also allow the College to forego the cost and inconvenience of shuttling students to and from the event. Additionally, members of the First-Year Social Committee said that having the formal on campus will allow for more flexibility in aspects of planning such as catering and decorations.
Even more significant than these logistical benefits is the opportunity for community building an on-campus formal affords. Hosting the event right beside the freshman dorms will ensure that all students are able to attend with minimum inconvenience, and will likely generate even greater attendance from last year’s record-high of 1200 tickets sold. Moreover, by hosting the formal closer to the end of the year, the event will serve as a memorable capstone to the Class of 2018’s formative freshman experience.
Despite all of these benefits, the fact that bad behavior from previous years was such an impetus for freshman formal’s return to campus is troubling. Steele said that she and other organizers “didn’t even try” looking into hotel venues, which have reservations about hosting events for college students due to past alcohol-related incidents. During last year’s freshman formal at the Seaport Boston Hotel, intoxicated students caused the event to end one hour early. With all the positive aspects of an on-campus formal, we hope that students party responsibly while enjoying themselves next month.
Ultimately, hosting freshman formal below an illuminated Annenberg Hall and alongside Harvard Yard will offer a distinct ambience that will prove more memorable for attendees than a hotel ballroom. On April 29, the Science Center Plaza has the potential to be the setting for a picturesque culmination of freshman year that many upperclassmen would have enjoyed. We hope the freshman class takes full advantage of the opportunity.
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