As College Brings Social Life to Houses, Single-Gender Groups Tag Along

As Harvard aims to reinvigorate social life in undergraduate Houses, the very off-campus groups whose influence the College hopes to minimize have started taking advantage of the relaxed rules for hosting events in common spaces.

On Friday, members of Harvard’s chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma, a sorority, held a social event in Mather House’s Junior Common Room. Donning wigs in accordance with the party’s theme, several dozen women and their dates poured through Mather courtyard to dance the night away.

But because the College does not recognize Harvard’s final clubs and Greek organizations, Houses do not permit them to register parties in public House spaces.

“We prefer not to offer facilities, as per the College policy, for non-recognized groups,” Mather House Faculty Dean Michael D. Rosengarten said.

Adams K Space
Adams K space.
Rosengarten said the House administration became “very aware” of the party after it had occurred.


“I don’t know the specifics of [the party], all I know is that they didn’t clean up afterward,” Rosengarten said, adding that the responsible persons had since apologized.

Sally C. Marsh ’18, president of Harvard’s Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter, declined to comment.

Unrecognized single-gender social organizations, especially Greek organizations, are no stranger to holding parties on campus. Private residential rooms in upperclassmen Houses have long been used as venues for parties, especially by the multiple female final clubs and Greek organizations that do not own property.

But as Harvard has ramped up pressure on single-gender social organizations, some have slipped through the College's tightening grip to find use newly available locations to host their events. In Houses like Mather and Cabot House, for example, students can book parties just minutes in advance. Other large House spaces like the Currier House “Treehouse” and Pforzheimer House “Igloo” are frequently used to host large parties.

Rosengarten said that Mather’s room reservation system allowed students living in Mather to reserve communal spaces for their friend groups, as well as recognized student groups, as long as “a Mather person… takes charge.”

Last September, Adams opened the “K Space,” and started allowing residents to book the space to host parties.

“This is something we have been trying to do for probably five years, to find more spaces where people can have more events in the houses," Adams House Faculty Dean John G. “Sean” Palfrey '67 said.

And in early February, members of the Owl Club and Kappa used the venue to hold a mixer. Kevin D. Rex ’17, undergraduate president of the Owl, declined to comment about the event.

Palfrey said that he was not aware of February’s event, though he would not necessarily have been notified if others in the House had concerns.

“That would not have been allowed,” Palfrey said. “Whoever got permission to use the K Space, they might have been somebody in the club, but they didn’t acknowledge that.”

Palfrey said the House has encountered problems when the host of a party does not live in the room being used, citing accountability and safety issues.

“We have also have had a couple of problems with rooms, that say ‘oh, I’ll allow you to host your party in my room’, and then things get out of hand because they don’t know the rules and don’t understand what it means to take responsibility for their guests,” Palfrey said.

In general, though, Rosengarten said he hopes to bring students back into the Houses for their parties.

“A lot of students have been going outside of the college for parties and events, and I think we all feel the same way, that it would be better if they were here—it’d be safer,” Rosengarten said. “Our goal has always been to have as many parties here as possible. We’ve eased a lot of restrictions on our parties.”

—Staff writer Graham W. Bishai can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GrahamBishai.

—Staff writer Derek G. Xiao can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @derekgxiao.


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