'Fun czar' to tickle Harvard

October 7, 2005

Although Harvard University consistently tops the world's academic league tables, it believes that there is one aspect of its student experience that could be improved - fun.

It has hired a recent graduate to oversee social events and is considering opening a student pub on campus. But there have been concerns about whether having a pub might encourage more heavy drinking. The institution also recently hired its first-ever alcohol educator to tackle this problem.

Surveys have shown that Harvard students are smart, but they do not have much of a social life. The surrounding community of Cambridge, Massachusetts, continues to see an influx of restaurants and bars that are priced too high for students.

"I think the dean's office has worked to pay particularly close attention to the needs of students," said Caleb Merkl, an undergraduate. "Probably the most noticeable improvement is that they are actively trying to find out what students want as opposed to simply trying to guess. The possibility of a pub is just one component of a host of social improvements at Harvard."

The university has hired a 23-year-old alumnus as its special assistant to the dean of social programming - unofficially dubbed the "fun czar" - and has started running events such as street fairs and dodge-ball tournaments.

Harvard is not the only US university that has been trying to change its overly serious image. T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "Where Fun Comes to Die" are popular at the University of Chicago, which came bottom of a league table of institutions ranked according to how much fun students had there.

The university established a committee to recommend ways of making it less moribund. One suggestion was to refer to itself simply as "Chicago", like the popular musical.

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