Plaza Spaces Policies

Amenities, Services & Security

Organizations should plan their events and activities with accessibility in mind. University Disability Services provides resources and guidelines for event planners.

Audio-Visual & Music Equipment:
All audio-visual services in the Plaza tent are arranged for a fee. Please see the “Event Services” policies for more information. Students may rent music equipment for a fee from Media and Technology Services (MTS). View MTS’s available resources for student organizations.

Event Services by Harvard Common Spaces & Harvard Events Management:
The Common Spaces office coordinates event audio-visual, catering, labor, logistics and rentals in all Common Spaces venues. Common Spaces and Harvard Events Management work together to provide event support for the Plaza tent. Common Spaces supports student-run events and Events Management supports school and department-run events. All event services arranged by either Common Spaces or Events Management are subject to an 18% administrative fee and Massachusetts taxes if applicable.

While there are no restrooms located on the Plaza, visitors may use the restrooms located in the basement of the Science Center. All events must plan to budget for an hourly fee for Science Center restroom attendants for events with more than 150 guests.

The Common Spaces office will review your event request and anticipated number of attendees to determine if the event space can support it. Depending on the scope, scale, and nature of an event, it may require HUPD details, Securitas officers, crowd control managers, and additional staffing. Large events for over 150 people, late night social events, ticketed events, and events with high profile participants are the most common types of events that require police or security at an additional charge. Multi-day events, including set-up and teardown days, require a mandatory security detail even during non-event times.

All events must take responsibility for management of all trash, recycling, and composting or pay a fee for trash maintenance to Facilities Maintenance Operations.

Water/Electrical Use:
Arrangements for water, power cords, and electricity must be made in advance with the Common Spaces Office. Additional fees will apply.


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Restricted Dates:
There are event date restrictions during reading and exams periods as well as during certain University activities.

Severe weather:
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Event Signage Requirements

With the exception of small events such as tabling/flyering, all events should display clear, printed, and visible signage. The Common Spaces office can provide basic poster templates if needed. Signage plans must be provided to the Common Spaces office for review at least two weeks in advance of the event

Food and Beverage

Alcohol is rarely permitted at events that are open to the entire campus community, especially if the activity is in an outdoor location. Any exceptions to this policy will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Food Requirements:
Food provided at events must be prepared by an approved licensed foodservice establishment caterer. Please note that Harvard organizations may not prepare and sell their own food products.

A list of approved caterers can be found here:

Crimson Catering
Harvard Dining Services
Harvard Faculty Club
Food Trucks (limited to only those food trucks who are registered with the Harvard Common Spaces food truck program on the Plaza)

Use of compostable serveware is recommended to comply with the MassDEP Composting Requirements.

Foods bought in single-serve, wrapped packages which do not need temperature control for safety, such as wrapped candy and chips are permitted for free giveaways but not for sale. These items must be purchased from licensed wholesalers such as BJ’s as per EH&S’s food safety policy.

In extremely rare circumstances, organizations may be permitted to prepare their own food for events open beyond its membership under the supervision of a Serve-Safe trained food safety manager in a licensed kitchen and under the auspices of a temporary foodservice permit from the City of Cambridge. View more information about food safety at Harvard.  

Food Trucks:
Common Spaces manages the daily Plaza food truck program. Any inquiries about food trucks or requests for special food truck events must be coordinated through the Common Spaces office a minimum of one month in advance.

Parking and Load-in

The Plaza is community space. Key areas including the brick sidewalks and all entry points onto the Plaza may never be blocked and must remain open for safe passage by pedestrians and bicyclists.

Parking Information:

On-campus: There is no on-site parking available. One-day or multi-day guest parking passes can be purchased through Harvard Transportation and Parking Services.

Off-campus: The Harvard Square Business Association provides a list of municipal parking lots in the Square.  Please note their rates and availability vary.  Metered street parking is also available.

Vehicle Loading on the Plaza:

Cars: the Common Spaces office may grant permission to individuals looking to unload equipment from their vehicles. All requests should be made at least one week in advance. Load-in/out should take no more than 10 minutes. There is absolutely no parking in or around The Plaza, the surrounding lawns or at the corner of 1 Oxford/Kirkland Streets.

Trucks: as the Plaza is an overpass, there are weight limits and trucking restrictions. Please contact the Common Spaces office to review and schedule any truck deliveries.

Prohibited Activities

Blackout Dates:
Organizations are not permitted to host events, programs or activities during Reading or Exam Periods and spaces are unavailable for reservation during that time. When there is a University need, Common Spaces reserves the right to lock additional dates.

Is strictly prohibited on any University property. Organizations that chalk will be fined and charged for the total costs related to clean-up.

Commercial Activities/Free Giveaways:
In compliance with University policy, the University reserves the right to prohibit commercial activities and/or prioritize educational and research activities on the Plaza. In particular, the sale, advertisement, and/or free give-away of commercial products is prohibited.

In compliance with College and University policies, co-sponsorship of an event with a non-Harvard or unrecognized student organization or individuals is not permitted on campus. Limited exceptions to this policy may be granted if the event is non-commercial and the co-sponsor is a non-profit. Please contact Common Spaces for further details.

Lawns & Planted Areas:
No motorized vehicles shall be permitted on lawns or planted areas. There shall be no disturbance from stakes or other excavations without first obtaining permission from Facilities Maintenance Operations.

University policy prohibits excessive noise amplification during business hours when it may disrupt the workday, classes, or other events. Amplification is also not approved during reading periods or exam periods. Requests to play music will be reviewed by the Common Spaces office in consideration of the surrounding buildings and residential community.

Occupancy Limits:
The Common Spaces office will review your event request and anticipated number of attendees to determine if the event space can support it. Depending on the scope and nature of an event, it may require HUPD detail, Securitas officers, crowd control managers or extra staffing.  Large events for over 150 people, late night social events, ticketed events, and events with high profile participants are the most common types of events that require police or security. An HUPD or Securitas officer is required for every 150 people at an additional charge. Multi-day events, including set-up and teardown days, require a security detail even during non-event times. 

Open Flames/BBQ/Candles/and Cambridge Fire:
The use of open flame on the Plaza may be approved with advance written notice to the Common Spaces Office.

The City of Cambridge permits the use of wood fire pits and open flames for cooking as well as non-industrial grills with one propane tank.

The City of Cambridge does not permit all other uses of propane, bonfires, fireworks, and floating sky lanterns.

Any fires must be kept at a safe distance from pedestrian pathways and at least 50’ away from buildings. Fire extinguishers must present. Both a Facilities Maintenance Operations attendant and a Cambridge Fire Department detail are required to oversee fire pits. All use must be in compliance with University fire and safety policies:

View more information from the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services.

Signage Restrictions:
Any décor, posters or signs must be freestanding; nothing may be affixed to the exterior of buildings, doors, fences, entry posts, gates, utility poles, waste containers, existing signage, walls, floors, or tent structures. Banners may be allowed if hung by the Harvard Facility Maintenance group only.

Smoke-Free Campus:
All of the Common Spaces venues adhere to Harvard’s Tobacco-Free policy.

Skateboarding is not allowed in any Common Spaces venue.

Special Licenses

Filming and media:
Videotaping and reporting are prohibited on campus without prior permission. To apply for a permit, please review the University's policies for photography and filming on campus
and contact Harvard Public Affairs and Communications (HPAC).

License Agreements with Harvard University for use of space:
Depending on the scale and location of your event, you may be required to apply for a license agreement for use of space. Please contact the Common Spaces office for more details.

Licensing by the City of Cambridge:
The City of Cambridge License Commission (CLC) issues a variety of licenses to organizations for their events particularly on the Plaza. Licenses requirements should be discussed with the Common Spaces office. In some instances, there may be resources available to assist you in obtaining licenses.

Licenses include:

  • One-day Entertainment License:
    • Required when there is an admission charge.
  • One-Day Vendor’s License:
    • Required for any cash handling and the sale of goods at an event
    • A license that provides special dispensation to hold a raffle. Raffles involve the sale of tickets or entries for a random drawing.  (Door prizes and drawings, where no cash is involved, are permitted without a license and not considered games of chance).
  • Tents/Structures Permit:
    • Any tents larger than 10’ x 10’ require a permit, coordinated by the Common Spaces office.

Temporary Structures and Tabling/Flyering


Short-term exhibits/displays: Proposals to display one-day exhibits in outdoor venues may be granted, assuming there is enough time for the Common Spaces office to review, suggest modifications, approve, and plan for the appropriate location. This may take up to four weeks. All displays will need to be setup and dismantled on the same day, and should be anchored and secured appropriately to ensure safety. Scale and materials will need to be carefully considered and evaluated. Please note that the Plaza experiences high winds.  All projects must be pre-approved by your School or Department in advance. Following School or Department approval, written proposals to the Common Spaces office should include a description of the exhibition with detailed drawings, goals, budget, staffing, setup needs, and timeline. Requests to exhibit for multiple days may be granted, however exhibits will need to be dismantled at the end of each day and set up again on the following day(s). 

Long-term exhibits/displays: Requests to display longer-term exhibits in outdoor venues or to construct semi-permanent structures are subject to a University Design Review Process as well as City of Cambridge permitting. All requests must be put into writing and received four months in advance to include description, goals, budget, necessary labor and timeline and sent to the Common Spaces office.

Staking of Tents/Temporary Structures:
Tents or structures should not be installed without prior approval and permitting – and in some cases direct supervision – from Harvard University personnel. 

Particular attention must be paid when staking is required for tent installation.  Dig Safe procedures must be followed for staking.  The tent installation vendor is responsible for notifying Dig Safe and following related procedures.  Dig Safe may be contacted at 1-888-DIG SAFE.  Dig Safe must be notified 72 hours (3 business days) prior to installation.  More information regarding Dig Safe can be found at In addition to notifying Dig Safe, Harvard University must also be notified directly through the Harvard Operations Center at 617-495-5560.  If the designated area is not marked, the required Harvard approval has not been secured, or the required supervision is not available, you should not proceed with tent installation.

Officially recognized student organizations may request space on the Science Center Plaza to do flyering and marketing for their events. To review policies and to submit a Tabling request, please click below: