Not the Yardfest We Know


Not the Yardfest We Know

Unfamiliar Changes to Yardfest Concern Students across Campus



Following the events that happened last April regarding the Harvard College student who was taken into custody by Cambridge Police, Harvard University has taken measures to both preclude events like this from happening again as well as to make students aware of resources that will increase their overall safety. In order to accomplish these tasks, then-President Faust established a committee to take measures which would take effect at Yardfest 2019.

In a report entitled “Report and Recommendations” by the Harvard University Review Committee (emailed out to the undergraduate email list on March 25th, 2019) 4 principles are outlined that the committee believes would make the festival a safer environment. The committee was designed to not only make Yardfest more enjoyable, but to make the student population safer by bringing awareness to the many resources the University has, including both staff and food and water.

The steps taken by Harvard are not totally unprecedented. In previous years, the festival has taken place on Sunday afternoons in an attempt to allow for more resources at the event. Resources such as first responders and HUPD are typically more pressured on Friday and Saturday, so moving the event back a day would allow for a larger ratio of HUPD officers to students. The question of whether students actually trust these individuals is discussed elsewhere in the report.

Additional adjustments that are being implemented include a restriction on “big bags,” a limitation of re-entry, and an effort to intervene with dangerous drinking. The report then goes on to outline how organizations such as A.O.D.S. will make active effort to make their information readily available; in doing so, students who are confronted with situations regarding drugs/alcohol can make informed decisions.

The report takes many of its ideas from focus groups and other forms of recommendations made by students and the Harvard community. Regardless of the intent, some steps taken by the University seem to go against the spirit of Yardfest and stances they took were controversial to students who preferred the Saturday venue. Particularly, underclassman who were unaware that there exists precedent for the Sunday afternoon Yardfest were frustrated, claiming that “Sunday afternoon’s when I start to think about the rest of the week…and have to think about the rest of the week.” Others students griped with the guest policy, claiming that they already have plans for “friends that are flying up to visit” or significant others making the trip out to Harvard. However, other students took a slightly more optimistic view, with several sardonically claiming that at least this way they have a reason to celebrate all weekend.

Harvard received a lot of feedback regarding the lack of trust between officers and students. Because the University’s main goal is to ensure the community’s safety, Harvard is attempting to bridge the lack of trust between students and officers that primarily exists among marginalized groups. HUPD has been entrusted this year with more clearly communicating what can be expected of the department, where their limitations lie, and what actions they will take when a situation is out of their power.

In the words of the report,

(1)   HUPD should build upon its existing efforts to work with surrounding police departments to ensure that there are clearly understood roles, responsibilities, and practices in place for incidents in which HUPD responds to the scene when events are occurring outside of Harvard’s campus, and therefore outside HUPD’s primary jurisdiction.”

(2)   “The awareness expands on what to do in situations involving the impaired with updated amnesty policy. They make it clear that all of Harvard’s staff, including Proctors and Tutors can serve as a resource for undergraduates and that even if they are underage”

(3)   “Any student may bring an intoxicated or drug-impaired friend to Harvard University Health Service or to a hospital, or seek assistance from College residential life staff or HUPD, and by doing this, neither they nor the friend will face disciplinary action from the College for having used or provided alcohol or drugs.”

Although unlikely, in the event that a situation arises involving Harvard College students, the committee assembled by Drew Faust addresses in further detail the context in which they made changes to this year’s Yardfest, Harvard’s participation in the response, and how they intend to prevent these events in the future with the help of other students.

Graham Walter ‘21 ( still looks forward to a fun Yardfest with (Harvard only) friends.