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Renewed Restrictions on Harvard Branding Guidelines to Affect Some Prominent Clubs

The Student Organization Center at Hilles is located at 59 Shepard St in the Radcliffe Quadrangle.
The Student Organization Center at Hilles is located at 59 Shepard St in the Radcliffe Quadrangle. By Jennifer Z. Liang
By J. Sellers Hill and Makanaka Nyandoro, Crimson Staff Writers

A renewed effort by the Harvard College Dean of Students Office to restrict the use of Harvard branding by student organizations could alter the branding of multiple student groups.

New organizations must include either “Harvard Undergraduate” or “Harvard College” and “Student(s)” in their name, according to a resource guide published by the Student Organization Center at Hilles. The rule only applies to clubs formed after 1998, when the restriction first took effect, according to DSO spokesperson Aaron M. Goldman. Organizations such as the Harvard Outing Club, which was established in 1939, are exempt from the rule, as are clubs that do not include the word “Harvard” in their names.

Several prominent student organizations appear to be in violation of the rule, including Harvard College Consulting Group, Harvard College Economics Review, and Harvard College Open Data Project. Others have modified their name in recent months to align with the regulations.

The guidelines, which dictate student-run clubs’ use of the Harvard name and branding, have been in effect since the late 1990s but are being enforced with renewed urgency, according to Associate Dean for Student Engagement Jason R. Meier.

“This request is not new, but there is more of an urgency,” Meier said in an interview last week. “It’s important and we really do need to resolve this issue.”

Lucy M. Ding ’24, co-president of Harvard College Open Data Project, said the organization is working to change its name to “some variation that is not in violation of the naming rule.”

Harvard College Consulting Group and Harvard College Economics Review did not respond to requests for comment.

Harvard Undergraduate Consulting on Business and the Environment, a student-run consulting group founded in 2008, referred to itself on its website as “Harvard Consulting on Business and the Environment” as recently as December, internet archives show.

The organization did not respond to a request for comment on whether or not the change was in response to the newly enforced rules.

Per the resource guide, the naming rules exist to distinguish student organizations from official representatives and actions of the College and University.

“Student organizations must make it clear, in all instances and contexts, that they and their related activities are student activities, and not activities of the College or the University as a whole,” the guide reads.

The guide also describes restrictions on how clubs can abbreviate their names, specifically that acronyms “may not be a hybrid of the Harvard name (spelled out) plus an acronym,” a rule seemingly violated by Harvard Undergraduate Women in Computer Science, whose website branding refers to the organization as “Harvard WiCS.”

“We are the Harvard Undergraduate Women in CS,” club co-president Karly Hou ’23 wrote in an emailed statement.

Harvard Undergraduate Film Club President Aidin R. Kamali ’25 wrote that the club’s name change this semester — a switch from the Harvard College Society for the Cinematic Arts — “might unfortunately turn away grad students.”

Still, some club leaders, including Kamali and Ding, said they are not fazed by the name changes.

“We plan on complying with the rule and don’t really believe that it greatly impacts our organization or our purpose on campus and beyond,” Ding wrote in an emailed statement.

—Staff writer J. Sellers Hill can be reached at sellers.hill@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @SellersHill.

—Staff writer Makanaka Nyandoro can be reached at makanaka.nyandoro@thecrimson.com.

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