FM and Springfest…

Before I check out for the weekend, I’d be remised if I didn’t mention the excellent cover article in this week’s FM. Combined last week’s tremendously interesting and well done piece on the emergence of the Black Men’s Forum, this story on the history and struggles of Spring Fest makes me think that FM is looking to take on the position of not just an entertainment weekend magazine on the culture of Harvard, but a place for broader stories about Harvard politics to come into focus. While it’s hard to generalize what FM has or hasn’t done in the past (I’ve only been here so long and haven’t always paid so much attention), it’s a welcome move.

In any event, the great thing about this story is that it makes unavoidably clear one simple truth: the Harvard administration is not willing to invest the kind of time and money into student life that would be necessary to really make this place fun. (more in expanded post)

I think the conclusion of the article summed it up well (although I highly recommend you read the whole thing if you haven’t already):

“The President’s Office doesn’t have to be accountable to students because they don’t need to draw people in—they have the Harvard name,” he says. To effect change, he cites his experience with Senior Gift Plus: “Create a petition, educate people, arouse some anger over the situation, get the press involved, and Harvard will realize it can no longer afford to marginalize undergraduates when it comes to events like Springfest.”

Longbrake says that the President’s Office is “very interested in supporting” undergraduate social life, but he did not say whether the office would increase funds to Springfest’s after-party in future years.

But if Mahan is right, the Office won’t address the need until students make it clear that a need exists. After all, Longbrake contends that Harvard’s Springfest is just as fun as Yale’s.

Hard as they may try, the UC alone can’t incite the kind of cultural change necessary to make Harvard’s Springfest look like Penn’s, Yale’s, or Brown’s. That would take more than just another $20,000 or a permanent liquor license. Maybe the President’s Office isn’t so wrong to emphasize community—they just have the wrong community in mind.

Now, I’m not interesting in Harvard being “fun” just so we can all revel in our wealth and opportunities. There’s a much more substantive reality: a college community where students don’t get together to enjoy themselves, to meet each other and to relax is not a community at all. In the day in and day out of Harvard, it is rare that we have a chance to appreciate our lives and appreciate each other. THAT is why that administration should care, because community is part of what defines our experience at this school, and therefore our persons for the rest of our lives.


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