david_alpert at post.harvard.edu
Thu May 18 03:33:56 EDT 2000
Ah, spring... that time of year when love blooms, exams threaten, and people
talk about the demise of the HCS. I know I graduated already, but I just
couldn't resist coming back for one more angst-ridden future-of-the-HCS
I think Britt a lot of very good points, ones which I can deeply identify
with because I went through a long period of feeling just the same way. I
thought about whether the HCS was obsolete, whether it should be discarded,
whether acctserv should be spun off, whether it should become a solely
service focused group, whether it should be a solely social group... you get
Then one day I thought back to the early days of the HCS, when Susan Groppi,
Daniel Lopez, Cindy Alvarez, David Krinsky and others graced its threadbare
couches. Most of this crowd were seniors; they had spent years together,
they had their friendships and their rivalries. When I went into the office
my freshman fall, everyone knew each other and they had a lot of shared
history that I didn't have. Not that anyone was unfriendly or unwelcoming,
but the core membership of the HCS was a group of people of whom I was not
I did not really get involved until the spring, when the seniors moved on
and younger people moved into positions of influence. The first few
Perl/CGI/database programming projects (read: Calendar project), which went
on to define the HCS during our time, did not even get started at all until
the summer after my freshman year. In fact, the HCS did very little that
year. The seniors talked about how it had changed for the worse since they
arrived and how the HCS was dying.
Today we are in a similar situation. The Class of 2000 has made up a
disproportionate share of the HCS membership This tends to happen a lot
with small organizations; a few people recruit their friends and the number
of people grows. But many of those who became active - Britt, Marshall,
Palmer, Mike Bodell - in fact, most of the seniors who have been posting to
this discussion thread were not very involved early on.
Why are Carl, Mike Epstein, and (until now) me not participants in this
discussion? Because we have already moved on. We gained our experiences
from HCS (I sure learned a huge amount) and by the end of our board terms we
were ready for something else. That doesn't mean the HCS was dead. It
meant it was time for others to take over and learn from the HCS themselves.
The spring after Carl left, the HCS was a totally different organization.
We did just about no projects, but we hung out night after night with
Virginia and Mike Bodell and Jeff and Ashley in the office making sexual
innuendo. Was the HCS Carl, Mike and I had tried to build dead? Maybe.
Does that matter? Not at all. People were having fun. They were doing the
things they wanted to do. What's wrong with that?
Early in my time on the board I had grand ideas for growing the HCS into
something bigger. Carl, Mike and I tripled the amount of money the HCS had.
But we were putting in all this energy to turn the wheels when others didn't
seem to care much. The HCS doesn't grow because it has no mission to grow
for, nothing that drives everyone. The realization I came to was, that's
We're only at Harvard for four years. Who cares if the HCS Scott Golder
comes to is any different from the HCS I came to? When I arrived a large
group of seniors had defined their HCS and they were on the way out. When
they were seniors not much happened. Then a new group of people defined our
HCS, very different from the one before. Now we are on the way out and it's
true, not much is happening right now. The spark for our generation has
been waning for a year or so. We should get out of the way and let the
classes of '02 and '03 bring in a new spark.
I do think there is a need for something larger, something with more
resources, something with a specific focus, something perhaps more
institutional. That is why I started TECH. But the HCS is not that and
should not be that because above all the one great thing about the HCS is
that it is always there for anyone to mold as they wish, should someone step
up to the plate. Eugene Kim and leaders of his generation wanted to publish
a magazine and a computer book and they did. I wanted to do the Calendar
project and I did. If someone wants to do something else, even if it is
completely unlike anything we have done before, that's fine and nobody
should tell them no. All it takes is the will to start it and stick with it
through the rough spots.
Maybe the HCS will die, maybe it won't. Maybe its activities will change
dramatically, maybe they won't. But it's not up to us, the seniors.
Harvard isn't for us anymore. It's for the students who still have a lot
they can learn from the HCS, and it is up to them how and whether they
reinvent it. The HCS is a phoenix which rises from the ashes of old
projects every three years, born anew. We seniors are the ashes. Let's let
ourselves get swept away.
For the freshmen and sophomores on this list, the HCS is your organization
now. Nobody is going to tell you what to do or do things for you. You have
both a challenge and an opportunity. It's up to you to make the most of it.
And I will try very hard not to care how you choose to do so. Good luck.
Have fun. Learn a lot. The HCS provided us with experiences and learning
opportunities that will last a lifetime, and it can for you as well.
"What we do is to find the most inefficient way of doing something,
and then implement it slowly." - Carl Sjogreen, about the HCS
"I am not a fun person."
- HCS President Carl Sjogreen, 1997
"Unlike Carl, I am a fun person."
- HCS President Virginia Beauregard, 1998
"I don't want to have to deal with fun."
- HCS President David Mitby, 1999
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