Open letter of disappointment Concerning Harvard-Yale Graduate Ticket Pricing

By Simeon Bochev
By Simeon Bochev

Dear President Faust,

On Tuesday, September 27, 2016, at the Harvard Graduate Council (HGC) meeting, the representatives of the 12 graduate and professional schools voted unanimously to express their disappointment in graduate ticket pricing at the Harvard-Yale football game (“The Game”), slated to take place on Saturday, November 19, 2016. There are two key issues at hand. First, graduate students do not receive any discounted tickets for The Game and instead are required to purchase tickets ranging from $50 to $70 per ticket. Affordability is at the core of this issue, especially for many graduate students who are faced with significant loan burdens, many in the six figures. In comparison with peer institutions, Harvard Athletics’ graduate ticket policy is the outlier when compared with the rest of the Ivy League.

When contacted, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton, The University of Pennsylvania, and Yale all confirmed that both undergraduate and graduate students are offered free admission to all football games at their respective schools. Furthermore, during The Game last year, Yale charged $25 per ticket for both undergraduate and graduate students from Harvard, versus the $50 to $70 graduate ticket price that Harvard charges. In short, current ticket prices are outrageously expensive for a large proportion of graduate students.

The second issue at hand is the lack of a dedicated graduate student seating section for The Game. Due to the siloed nature of Harvard’s graduate programs, students from the various schools feel isolated from each other and even from the undergraduates. By offering undergraduate students a dedicated seating section and not extending the same opportunity to graduate students, Harvard is sending a clear message: graduate students are inferior to undergraduates. The stark difference in treatment contradicts our school’s goal of inclusion. Practically, this means that most graduate student governments book a block of seats for their own student populations separate from both other graduate and undergraduate students. The outcome is exclusion.latam-conference-1

HGC has spoken with Harvard Athletics’ ticketing manager Nick Majocha to express graduate students’ concerns. Mr. Majocha defended the high graduate student ticket prices, stating that no discounts are offered for any Harvard affiliate apart from undergraduates, whose tickets are completely free. Mr. Majocha also pointed out that graduate students are offered discounts at all other Harvard home football games. However, due to capacity constraints during The Game, he does not believe graduate students should be offered free or discounted tickets. Mr. Majocha also disputed the comparison drawn between Harvard and the other Ivy League schools, because Harvard’s smaller stadium and the high demand for tickets to The Game are unique in the Ivy League. Once again, a school that claims to value inclusion instead promotes exclusion.

HGC believes in creating “One Harvard,” and the issues raised in this letter exacerbate the existing divide among Harvard’s diverse student populations. Thus, HGC proposes the adoption of a policy similar to that of The University of Texas at Austin (UT), whose games historically reach capacity akin to the Harvard-Yale game. UT promotes inclusion through non-discriminatory pricing for undergraduate and graduate students at all games along with a dedicated “student seating section,” where graduate students sit as one unit adjacent to the existing undergraduate section. To be clear, HGC does not support any change in policy or tradition vis-a-vis free undergraduate tickets. On the contrary, HGC ideally aims to reach parity between undergraduate and graduate students in the spirit of One Harvard.

We trust that you will seriously consider the complaints raised in this letter as the unified voice of the 14,500 Harvard graduate students. We look forward to discussing these pressing concerns with you and reaching an amicable solution.

In Respectful Solidarity,

The Harvard Graduate Council