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As the annual sea of lanyard-adorned pre-frosh descended upon campus during Visitas this year, our Board was reminded of a perennial truth about the admitted students weekend and the university writ large: Harvard needs us.
More specifically, Harvard needs our clubs.
Come Visitas time, the Dean of Students Office inundates our inboxes with pleas to sign up to host admitted students in exchange for the right to recruit incoming first-years to our organizations. Without a wriggling mass of young clubs ready to be fed to the Big Bird that is the DSO, our University would be unable to put on its annual marketing extravaganza and Harvard’s yield rate might — God forbid — drop a few points.
Now, Big Bird has decided that it bit off more than it could chew: The DSO is considering a proposal to temporarily freeze the creation of new clubs, citing a shortage of resources to support student organizations at the richest university in the country.
As we’ve opined in the past, clubs powered by hardworking students are foundational to a Harvard education. Through our organizations, many of us find tight communities and develop lifelong skills that benefit us long after we graduate.
Which is why the plan being considered reeks of malpractice: If the club freeze goes into effect, our campus ecosystem is in trouble.
We can only hope that those admitted students hosted by members of this Editorial Board over Visitas did not overhear our loud grumblings about the harms of the proposed freeze — it would be such a shame if those smiling, enthusiastic pre-frosh were told that the club they once hoped to start would not be recognized by Harvard anytime soon.
In response to the DSO’s proposal to halt club creation, we have a counteroffer:
How about no?
Realistically, the DSO cannot stop students from gathering in association — it’s our First Amendment right, after all. And we’re not about to discard our ambitions just because the DSO is finding its job a little too challenging.
On a more serious note, while the club freeze can’t stop groups of students from meeting, it might discourage our peers from forming new clubs in a seriously harmful way, given the DSO’s ability to restrict room rental to officially recognized clubs. Many meaningful clubs on campus, including affinity spaces, were only created in the past few years — an influx that makes sense given that many clubs likely died during the Covid-19 pandemic. A freeze on club creation will potentially damage campus culture for everyone, especially underrepresented students.
We see this plan for what it is: a lazy attempt by the DSO to buy time to remedy their internal dysfunction.
A cursory glance at the DSO’s disorganized club database quickly reveals its incompetence. Despite a recent revamp, the website is unfriendly to users and is connected to infrequently updated email lists. Additionally, the website lists 587 student clubs, even though only 181 clubs submitted applications for HUA funding in Spring 2023, suggesting that the database itself is severely outdated.
In a year in which a club leader transferred $30,000 from her club’s bank account into her own seemingly without DSO repercussions, the proposed freeze strikes us as emblematic of misplaced priorities and institutional ineptitude: Big Bird needs to get its nest in order.
Instead of offering students financial training to prevent future five-figure mishaps, the DSO has dedicated its purportedly limited resources this year to ensuring that clubs include the phrases “Harvard College” and “Student(s)” or “Harvard Undergraduate” in their official names. We find it hard to believe that comically paternalistic decisions such as this were made with student wellbeing in mind, rather than to protect Harvard’s copyrighted image.
The DSO claims that the freeze is necessary because of a dearth of available resources. Even if the University can’t spare a few pennies from its overflowing coffers, we see an obvious untapped funding source: Make the Student Activities Fee mandatory while covering it with financial aid. With one small policy change, the DSO could enshrine the centrality of clubs to the Harvard experience and affirm their funding as an institutional priority.
Right now, we’re confident that the DSO will approve the DSO’s plan (funny how that works), and we’re broadly unimpressed with Big Bird’s performance this year. So in the meantime, here’s hoping Big Bird starts taking better care of its flock.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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