BY ADINA LEVINE
The Student Activities Fair, usually held in the third week of the semester, was postponed this year to the fourth week, causing numerous clubs, including the Defenders and the Harvard Mediation Program, to hold separate orientations and close their admissions even before the fair.
“This activities fair just seems redundant,” commented Jason Gillum, a 1L. “I already joined the clubs that I wanted to join. I sought them out. Most of the big clubs like the journals and Lincoln’s Inn society, have already been having stuff for weeks. [The activities fair] really should be earlier.”
Different theories regarding the reason for the late date have surfaced, including the supposition that professors may have believed that 1Ls should first assess their coursework before getting involved in extracurricular activities. Some administrators maintain that this year’s activities fair was not significantly later than usual.
“There’s no set date, no set week,” commented Enice Matera, student services officer and student disabilities coordinator. When questioned why last year’s Student Activities Fair was on September 12th and this year on September 24th, Matera was uncertain.
The later date caused numerous clubs, including the Harvard Mediation Program and the Defenders, to put their deadlines before the fair. For both clubs, the training day was arranged last spring under the presumption that the Activities Fair would be, as usual, in the third week of the semester.
“This year the open house was our only chance to talk to students before we conducted interviews since the activities fair is so late,” commented 2L Carlye Murphy, head of HMP.
Even once the clinical programs realized the later date, the difficulties inherent in rescheduling their training programs necessitated a deadline before the activities fair.
“If the Jewish holiday had been different, we would have postponed our deadline,” commented Naomi Cotter, administrative coordinator for the Defenders. Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, fell on Saturday September 27th, and would have meant that training either had to be before the Student Activities Fair or not until October. Student leaders were not able to postpone training until October, because then there would have been only a limited amount of time for cases before the end of the semester in December.
“Five weeks to take cases is not enough time,” asserted Harrison Schweilock, 3L president of the Defenders.
Leaders of the Tenant Advocacy Program, on the other hand, adjusted their deadlines when they were informed of the later date for the activity fair. They pushed off their deadline for application until Friday, September 26th, and the training until October 2nd.
“Everything is just going to be later,” commented Betty Blake, administrator for TAP. “We have cases that we’re holding for 1Ls. We have 2Ls and 3Ls helping out, but the sooner we get the 1Ls trained, the better. The fall semester just seems so short.”
In the end, the programs that made their deadlines before the activities fair seem to have benefited by the lack of competition from other clubs. 112 people signed up for Defenders, compared with only about 70 the year before. The Harvard Mediation Program also had an impressive turnout at its orientation, of about 120 people.
“While we would have loved to have talked to interested students at the activities fair, we did a large publicity push the first few weeks of school – fliers, posters, an open house, participating in the clinical programs panel,” commented Murphy. “I think we reached a lot of students on our own.”
The only people who seemed to have been hurt by the change were the first-year students who hadn’t read the bulletin boards and had instead relied on the Activities Fair as their initiation into extracurricular activities.
“I was up to date on the clubs available, but you really had to read the Adviser,” observed Alex Vongartz, 1L. “Had I just shown up at the fair, I would have been disappointed.”
Other students, however, disagreed, believing that it was their responsibility to stay on top of events that they were interested in. “Even though I would have been disappointed had I not read the emails and not known, it would have been justifiable,” commented Kevin Chang, also a 1L. “The onus is on you to keep yourself informed.”
Many student leaders felt that had they been consulted in setting the date for the fair, many of these problems could have been avoided.
“I was in no way consulted in setting this up,” asserted Brian Taulbee, who represented SAC at the club fair. However, Brian did admit that the efforts of consulting everyone might have presented too great a challenge. “From the Dean of Student’s perspective, trying to consult everyone on such a big event would have been a nightmare.”