A Plea to Gerald Chan



Why the real estate mogul should buy us a bar.

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In the past year, Gerald Chan, a Harvard alum and billionaire Hong Kong real estate mogul purchased $120 million worth of Harvard Square property. These purchases are certain to bring good returns as the rent of Harvard Square is only increasing. Last fall, Chan generously gave $350 million to Harvard School of Public Health, the largest single donation Harvard has ever received. Clearly, Chan wants the best for his alma mater. Why not use his recent real estate purchases to help us out a little more? I suggest that Chan use a portion of his real estate purchase to create a student bar, and in doing so, provide another gift to the College. With these new assets, Chan has a unique opportunity to not only generate profit, but also to further support the College and improve the undergraduate experience.

Many other colleges have some type of college bar. Yale has Toad’s, Georgetown has The Tombs, Columbia has Mel’s, etc. We do not have any sort of equivalent. I believe that Harvard College students need a casual bar; a bar where all students can come together and socialize, a bar that excludes no one, a bar that College students can afford.

A current sophomore told me, “Currently I’d have to say that the most social spot on campus is Lamont Café,” and thinking about it, I would have to agree. This observation should really shock us. The most social spot for Harvard College students is the library? While I’m sure many professors will be happy to hear this, college students should also be encouraged to leave the library. College should be about more than completing problem sets and writing papers. So many students seem to undervalue what we can learn from one another. While clearly it is critical to study and learn in class, I have learned so much from my peers over a glass of wine at dinner or a conversation at a party. This is the sort of education will continue beyond academia. All students at Harvard have something special to offer, and we need an environment where we can share our diverse knowledge.

Then there’s the added benefit of addressing the issue of finals clubs. Having a college bar for all students will lessen the necessity for elite clubs to provide exclusive social entertainment. While finals clubs may continue to exist for the foreseeable future, I believe that a bar would include more of the student body and enable people from different parts of Harvard to come together. In a conversation with several former students about their experiences at Harvard, a recent grad, said, “The best part about Senior Week is that everyone can come together.” But why do we need to wait until the week before graduation?

Students want and need a social space. Currently, there are remarkably few places where students can physically come together. While the new Smith Campus Center proposes a solution, Chan’s real estate investment could provide a quicker remedy. I am grateful for Harvard Square’s diverse restaurants and coffee shops. Why not add a place in the Square where I could go and be surrounded by other college students? Opening a bar intended for college students would be both a smart investment venture and a fantastic gift to the Harvard undergraduate community. Mr. Chan, if you want to give to Harvard, give us a space, and we’ll buy you a drink.

Ritchey Howe ’17 (ritcheyhowe@college.harvard.edu) prefers Peroni.