SOCH’s Off

Couches, candy, and comfort at Harvard’s new student center. Photos by Gary Gerbrandt.

Danny Bicknell addressed a small crowd of students, administrators, and confused Quadlings attempting to study in the SOCH’s newly-renovated mezzanine floor Wednesday evening. Standing on a makeshift stage, his tall frame awkwardly filled an otherwise open corner. Beside him, two plastic-and-metal poles with a stretch of white wrapping ribbon suspended between them awaited the welcoming caress of Dean Evelynn Hammonds’ official grand opening scissors.

Bicknell, the outgoing (and extroverted) Undergraduate Council President, was effusive in his praise for the new space. “Many people have worked hard for this — students, faculty, administrators, and those working for and committed to Harvard’s student life.” Before him, a who’s who of Harvard’s prominent student life faces (from Dean Hammonds herself to Dean of Freshmen Thomas Dingman, Director of Freshmen Programs Katie Steele, Assistant Dean of Student Life Emelyn de la Peña and SOCH Manager Douglas J.D. Walo) stood with arms crossed, listening as the new space around them was entered officially into the student consciousness.

Hammonds spoke briefly about the reactions she noted in brief encounters with students enjoying the surplus of free SOCH shirts, cotton candy, popcorn, free drinks from the coffee-and-more machine, and candy covering virtually every hard surface: “Amazing, awesome, great. Everything I wanted to hear. When I was a graduate student, I would come to Hilles to study, and since I have become Dean it has been my hope that this space would be similarly used by students — and this,” she said as she gestured to the myriad seating options, giant televisions, and gaming tables, “outperforms my greatest expectations.”

Together, Hammonds and Bicknell cut the short white ribbon — a symbolic action to ‘open’ a space that has been open for almost two weeks. The gathered crowd slowly dispersed, leaving the candy and the space to the Quadlings reading, writing, and browsing the Internet with their laptops. Serious, studious faces filled the ‘fun’ space once again, taking it back to the era of Hammonds’ time as a student working in Hilles.

By the end of the night, the candy and various entertaining machines were packed up and hidden away, and the space was nearly empty again — save for a few billiards players, coffee drinkers and baseball watchers.

Gary Gerbrandt ’14 (garygerbrandt@college) was one of the many Indy members delighting in the SOCH SWAG on Wednesday – we love the SOCH!