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Why does Harvard hate bridge?

It was November 2016. I was in my first semester of college, eager to meet other young bridge players and restart the club that had existed here since the 1930s. I checked all the boxes and did plenty of publicity and outreach. I found an esteemed faculty member as an advisor and lots of kids who wanted to learn the game. I figured we were a slam dunk for recognition.

Oh, how wrong I was. In a brief email that I will never forget, the Office of Student Life let me know that the Harvard College Bridge Club wouldn’t be getting its stamp of approval. The reasons? “Failed to demonstrate a need for recognition,” “struggles with consistent membership,” and “could operate under an already existing organization.” Specifically, we might consider merging with the “Harvard College Association for the Promotion of Interplanetary Expansion.” Truly sage advice. Why not discuss Mars colonies the next time we hit the card table?! You can’t make this stuff up.

Fast forward to the present. I’ve just submitted our club’s third application for recognition in as many years. The process that felt like a slam dunk two years ago now feels more like a blindfolded hurl from half-court.

Some things have changed. Now, the Undergraduate Council, the student government at the College, has de facto control of the recognition process. And a new club, the “Card Games Club,” has entered the drama. You see, the Card Games Club, a group of poker players, had opted to apply with a whitewashed name in order to avoid the stigma of gambling. And just like that, our club, which had been meeting for a year straight and for decades before that, was dismissed. Now that there was a club for Card Games, a bridge club was redundant!

So here we are now, getting three tables at our meetings and putting together strong teams for the ACBL Collegiate Bridge Bowl, but in the squalor of an unrecognized student group.

I don’t need to convince Bridge Winners that colleges should recognize a bridge club, but it’s worth adding that, beyond the legitimacy we deserve, there are tangible privileges at stake here. Only recognized clubs can recruit new members at the annual club fairs, book spaces for meetings, and use the Harvard College name. And furthermore, we are a real club, with a modest but consistent and dedicated membership. I truly believe we have satisfied all requirements for recognition, and simply have been shortchanged by a school that is a little too stingy in doling out its approval.

What can be done? Well, it’s time to lobby the relevant people on the Undergraduate Council. We already have supporters in the Harvard faculty, ACBL District 25, and the Boston area bridge community. Additionally, ACBL Education has done a good job to promote and support our club and others. Now I’m looking to Bridge Winners. Please share your thoughts--who knows, maybe the bridge community’s collective ire will have some sway.

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