When I first learned of my rooming assignment for this school year, I was nothing short of ecstatic. I had just barely survived living on the bottom bunk in an unfathomably cramped double in a suite of five guys in Grays Hall my freshman year. Thus, I anxiously awaited the day when I would move into Claverly Hall and my fourth-floor suite with a spacious common room, private bathroom, fire escape, and stunning view of Lowell’s lofty bell tower.
However, shortly after moving in to Claverly, I realized I had not fully considered all aspects of that old dictum: “Location, location, location.” The advantages of Adams in this regard—the proximity to the Yard and Square, to everything of importance, really—are well-known. Less so are the drawbacks, foremost of which is that Adams, and particularly Claverly Hall, are surrounded by final clubs. To the absolute delight of Claverly residents, the Delphic, Phoenix SK, Fly, and Owl surround us on all sides.
I, like many, have plenty of feelings about these organizations and the values for which they stand, but my complaint here derives solely from the great privilege I have enjoyed this year living in such proximity to them. In the first few days of classes, my roommate and I learned all too well that the final clubs, right across Mt. Auburn Street in plain sight from our windows, are a constant source of noise pollution.
When I say “constant,” I mean almost every single night. The day of the week is irrelevant. Whether it’s a Friday or a Monday, my nights are consistently enriched by the sound of loud, pulsating basslines and the incomparably stunning, vaguely homoerotic sight of shirtless bros playing beer-pong mere yards away.
I had to quickly develop strategies to deal with this unfortunate reality. I now find it impossible to study in my room past 11 p.m. without plugging in headphones. My regular bedtime is 3 a.m., which is typically when the blaring music from across the street finally subsides. Given my later classes, such a schedule has typically worked fine—except when I had to teach eighth-graders for CIVICS in Allston at 7:15 a.m. every Tuesday last semester, or when I had a 9 a.m. Russian final on a Thursday morning. On many occasions, I have been left feeling frustrated and helpless.
A friend suggested I contact HUPD. Reluctant to be perceived as a thin-skinned crybaby by the campus police, I hesitated. But eventually, spurred on by a fresh surge of frustration after hearing “Turn Down for What” for the umpteenth time, I grabbed my phone to dial for help. HUPD informed me that they could only alert the Cambridge Police Department, presumably because it has no jurisdiction over final clubs.
Calling CPD has become something of a pre-bedtime ritual for me. I’ll dial the non-emergency number and give the address of the perpetrator (usually the Fly Club). At this point, the dispatcher will immediately ask if loud music is the problem, as if they have received similar complaints a thousand times before. Then I provide my name and phone number and am told an officer will be on their way.
Unfortunately, in my frequent experiences calling CPD, I’ve been met with only mixed results. While the sight of a policeman pounding the Fly Club’s huge gold door-knocker invariably leaves me smiling smugly, these little victories—as I’ve found again and again—are fleeting. Usually, the music ceases for a brief, blissful half hour before starting up once more.
I realize that of all the interactions students have with final clubs, mine, though entirely negative, amount to nothing more than a nuisance. If I were destined to fall asleep to the beat of some dreadful Top 40 hit as my lullaby for the next two years, I would surely survive (even if I went slightly insane in the process).
But the message that Final Clubs peddle is clear: our right to party is more important than your happiness, inclusion, and well-being. The ability to do whatever one so pleases without considering how it might affect others—this is exactly what privilege looks like. With every frustrated glance out my window, then, I stare privilege right in the face.
Earlier this semester, Dean Khurana announced the creation of a faculty committee to revise or replace the college policy, announced last year, which seeks to discipline members of single-gender organizations. In light of these ongoing discussions, I can only hope my account will underscore the following point: that final clubs affect life on this campus in pernicious ways that are not always readily apparent. Moreover, they impact all students, not just members or those trying to make it in the front door on Friday nights. Of course their effects are not uniform. But by inducing social paranoia, degrading the inclusivity of the Harvard social scene, and, yes, even hindering sleep, final clubs are a detriment to life for too many at this school.
In their deliberations, the faculty committee should seek not to preserve the right of a select few to exclude at the expense of the happiness, health, and safety of the vast majority of the student body. Only time will tell how the college’s policy, whatever its final form may be, will shape the social scene at Harvard in the future. I am hopeful, however, that it is a step in the right direction.
Image Credit: Sebastian Reyes