Boston may investigate the closure of a Harvard-Yale party the weekend of The Game at which many of the predominantly black attendees were barred from entering the venue.
Three Harvard graduate students had booked the venue, Cure Lounge, after the Harvard-Yale football game Nov. 20. The club shut the party down when it became clear that most of those waiting outside were not carrying Harvard or Yale IDs, even though the organizers had provided a guest list. Attendees who were interviewed said they think the rejection was racially motivated, but the club denies this accusation.
Boston City Councilor At-Large Ayanna Pressley sent a letter to Patricia Malone, director of the Mayor’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing, asking that she launch an investigation of the incident, Pressley’s chief of staff James Chisholm said Nov. 24.
“I am dismayed that the mere presence of black Harvard and Yale alumni on a Boston street would result in an overreaction of this sort,” the letter said.
Attendees of the event disagree with the club’s management about what happened that night. As a line of Elis and Cantabs in cocktail attire gathered outside the club, bouncers from the venue refused to admit those who could not present a Harvard or Yale ID. In response, party organizers argued that most of the guests were alumni and therefore would not be carrying school IDs. The club kicked out those it had already admitted around 11:00 p.m., according to an e-mail party organizer and Harvard Business School student Michael Beal sent to invitees.
Chisholm said undertrained security guards might have played a role in the incident.
He added that Boston has a history of white gangs, but that it is unlikely that a bouncer would be concerned that a group of white people in cocktail attire would attract gangbangers.
“What’s very telling is that there were no reports of fights after they shut down the party,” Chisholm said. “Everyone in line either went home or went somewhere else. It suggests to me that there were no problems in line to begin with.”
Beal’s e-mail blamed the event on racism and said the club’s management told him his party might attract “local gangbangers” and the “wrong crowd.”
“We were perceived as a threat because of our skin color,” Beal wrote in the e-mail.
George Regan, the club’s spokesman, said that the party was shut down not because of the color of the guests’ skin, but because of other young people waiting in line unaffiliated with Harvard or Yale, whom he called “bad people,” “professional wise-guys” who “couldn’t spell the words ‘Harvard’ or ‘Yale,’” and the sort who “cause trouble.”
He denied that the club’s management used the term “gangbanger,” adding that the party’s organizers were being “cute” in protesting the club’s decision to shut the event down.
Regan said the party’s organizers had agreed in advance that all partygoers would have to present a Harvard or Yale ID to be admitted, but attendee Caprice Gray ’08, a Harvard School of Public Health graduate, called this claim “categorically untrue.”
Those who were granted access to the event were asked to leave without finishing their drinks when the club decided to cancel the event. Ticket holders received a partial reimbursement for the ticket price, but not for the drinks they bought.
It was Cure Lounge’s first weekend operating and Beal said in his e-mail that he thought the club owner might have been especially cautious as a result. He added that he spoke to the owner — who was not present at the beginning of the night but arrived midway through — at length, and did not think the man was a racist.
Gray said she had not doubted that the group’s rejection from the club was racially motivated, adding that selling a service and then adding a precondition after seeing the crowd’s race is not only immoral but also illegal.
“By claiming that we could be attracting [gangbangers], or that they could be blending in with us, it was essentially placing us in that same category just because of the color of our skin,” she said.
She said the event is getting press attention because of the education of the people involved, but that this should not be the case.
“It shouldn’t be that way,” she said. “You shouldn’t need credentials to be treated with dignity and respect.”
Jomaire Crawford LAW ’12, president of the Yale Black Law Students Association, was on her way to the event when she received a text message saying it was canceled. She said the club’s decision to end the party did not make sense, since there was a guest list that required prepaid tickets, and any “local gang bangers” in line could have been refused at the door by bouncers.
Crawford said she does not know the Boston and Cambridge area well enough to generalize, but had heard black Harvard students she knew report similar experiences in those cities on a smaller scale, mostly at clubs. She has not heard similar reports about events in New Haven, she said.
She added that it seemed like the racial climate in Boston and Cambridge is less welcoming than that in New Haven.
“It seems to be the case that the racial climate is different in Cambridge,” she said.
Cure Lounge is located on Tremont Street in Boston, Mass.
Correction: November 29, 2010
Due to an editing error, Jomaire Crawford LAW ’12 was identified as saying that Yale students had experiences similar to those felt on Nov. 20 at Cure Lounge, when in fact she said this about Harvard students she knew. She was also quoted commenting on the racial climate in Cambridge, but she was actually commenting on the racial climate in both Cambridge and Boston.