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For Mai-Linh Ton ’19, Freshman Family Weekend was the “single most devastating experience” of her first year at Harvard. While her friends and their families partook in the weekend festivities, Ton said she struggled to explain why her parents weren’t there—her mother worked six days a week, and her father had passed away when she was nine.
Drawing on her experiences, Ton—a Kirkland House representative and an active Crimson editor—presented legislation proposing an event for students whose family cannot attend Freshman Family Weekend to the Undergraduate Council, which ultimately passed the act.
Ton said she wished an administrator had reached out and invited her to a dinner with fellow students whose families couldn’t make it. This year, such an event will take place in Kirkland House for up to 75 attendees, supported by $3,500 of UC funding.
Ton said she hopes Faculty will also attend and speak to students interested in their departments.
At the UC’s Sunday general meeting, UC Vice President Cameron K. Khansarinia ’18 asked Ton whether the event could be altered in order to allow more students to attend.
“I think this is a really lovely event. I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “I wonder if you’ve thought about the notion of expanding this to not be a meal, but making it hors d'oeuvres, so you can have 200 people come.”
Ton said that she wanted the event to be a formal dinner, where students can foster relationships with faculty members.
“To have a quality event, we need to have it in this format, where it’s a sit-down dinner,” Ton said. “Instead of having a massive number of people, but not have a great take-away value, I’d rather try to come up with more funding.”
Ton said she is trying to secure support from the Freshman Dean's Office in order to allow more freshmen to attend the dinner.
“I’m working with the FDO to get more funding, so that would get more spots. It’s first-come, first-serve,” she said. “We’re hoping to get more capacity, because it would be really bad to say, ‘Hey, sorry your parents can’t come, but you can't come to dinner, either.’”
The event will be publicized mainly through entryway proctors, according to Ton. However, she said she hopes to find other avenues for advertising the dinner.
“We’re pubbing this through proctors, because they know students the best,” Ton said. “We’re trying to get some pubbing through FDO and possibly door-drops.”
At the end of the meeting, Ton said she hopes this event will bring awareness to the fact that Freshman Family Weekend experience differs for each student.
“I hope that this is one of many ways that we as a Council can help our constituents and continue to find ways to speak with them,” she said.
—Staff writer Andrew J. Zucker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewJZucker.
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