It's happened to almost everyone. You plan an event. Dozens of people RSVP. But when the date rolls around, only a few actually show up. Well, Leverett House Master Howard M. Georgi '68 has had enough.
As he wrote in an email to Flyby, he's noticed that students are often "not looking carefully at their schedules when they sign up, or not anticipating how busy they are going to be. ... I think that many of us are discouraged from organizing events by the difficulty of getting an audience we can count on."
So he sent an email to the House, proposing a system in which students buy tickets even to free events and then receive refunds if they do indeed attend. Specifically, he wrote to Flyby that he plans to try an "experiment" in this vein for upcoming concerts by pianist Charlie Albright, the House's artist in residence.
Current Lev students expressed trepidation about such a plan—they understand the concern but bristle at limitations on their spontaneity. "I'm sure that this would generate higher yield to events, but if I'd be a lot more hesitant to sign up for different events," said Joshua C. Zhang '14.
Sofia M. Tancredi '14 agreed: "It makes sense in the context of this event, because it's small and the musician is performing for us on his own time. But it would only discourage students in the long run."
Could this idea be expanded to fit within Harvard's existing payment systems? A survey of those institutions made it seem doubtful. Jeffrey Cuppett, who manages Crimson Cash as assistant director for business applications, said, "You're looking for web debit, where refunds are just as easy as payments. The current Crimson Cash interface has no way of handling that."
Ellen McCullough, manager of student financial services, agreed, "We just don't have a system for refunds in place right now. We'd have to hire a new administrative position to monitor the payments and credit the students who do attend." She voiced psychological concerns about the utility of the scheme as well. "It might not actually be that effective—adding the charges to the term bill would make the charges seem less immediate, so it still might not force students to take action."