EARLIER this month, a group of Harvard graduates--including parents, lawyers, professors and community activists--gathered in Harvard Hall to share their experiences. One lawyer told of how she has represented poor tenants and abused women who cannot afford a lawyer. Another told of spearheading tenant activism on behalf of affordable rents. Another described his long hours as a public defender.
They all had misgivings about working somewhat within the system, because they so desperately wanted to change it. The important thing is they didn't use their education to enrich the rich or to entrench corporate monopolies. The didn't embrace the system; they worked to chip away at its faults. They realized that their talents, if devoted to the right causes, could indeed make a difference, even if it was only a little one.
They are among the few Harvard graduates who actually look beyond their own worlds to aid others.
At Harvard, students tout tolerance and equity and awareness and diversity and other high-minded tenets of liberalism. But when it comes to their own lives, how many volunteer their time, how many make friends outside of their peer group, how many march for or otherwise act on their principles? How may just talk in circles?
THIS is a useful paradigm through which to view the Undergraduate Council's decision last Sunday to bring ROTC back to campus. This vote attests to what all the doomsayers were saying about our generation, what few college liberals are willing to admit.
It is a lack of any sort of guiding principle. Any sort of desire for deep change. It is symbolized by the message of the Senior Class T-shirt--our "Going for the Gold" means nothing more than going after the American Express gold card.
It is very disturbing. How can our student representatives ignore the students that preceded them by 20 years, who got beaten and jailed for acting on some sort of idealism? How can some of these modern day student officials meet with Harvard officials and be convinced by them to carry out the administration's bidding?
And how can an Eliot House council member support bringing ROTC back to campus because "we're talking a lot about people who need to do ROTC for financial reasons--the militarization of the lower classes?"
THESE actions are clear signs that many council decision-makers, and probably many of the students they represent, can make it through four years of Harvard and still not question the ideology of the status quo.
Many of those supporting a return of ROTC to campus argue that this will ease the way for low-income students who use ROTC scholarships to pay their way through college. But Harvard students already have the option of joining ROTC. Bringing ROTC to campus would go beyond providing opportunity--it would be embracing the organization and accepting the argument that low-income students need to join it. And that is a step Harvard cannot afford to take.
Poor people and people of color have always been militarized to a greater extent than their elite counterparts. Now members of Congress want to make some financial aid contingent upon national service--again foisting duties upon people because they can't afford to buy their way out of them.
Eliot House representative, don't you understand that the militarization of the lower classes is a bad thing?
Accepting ROTC on campus as a means for students to fund their education is antithetical to respect for income diversity. Have you taken the opportunity to talk with a low-income Harvard classmate to understand their situation, or have you, like many Harvard students, simply gone off about "lazy welfare recipients" in section, without ever realizing that some welfare recipient may have been sitting next to you?
Income diversity at Harvard does not mean compartmentalizing low-income students into the military--it means mixing rich and poor and getting to understand each other. Why are you so willing to perpetuate a system that sends people into the military based on their family's income?
HARVARD cannot bring ROTC back as a panacea for poverty-stricken students. The group is a vocation that should draw members based on interest in military leadership, not bribe people because of their destitution.
Bringing ROTC to campus would enhance the incentive for students who have to work their way through college to opt for the free route. To be bribed by a tantalizing way to pay their ticket through here, and, yes, to take up a greater burden for our nation's defense than is equitable. To turn their time and talent away from other academic and extracurricular pursuits. To have the relief of paying a bill.
Don't patronize low-income students so much as to think that their talents should only be devoted to paying the bill, and not to devoting as much effort to other parts of the Harvard community as other students.
The purpose of Harvard's need-blind admissions policy is to ensure that anyone bright enough to get in can attend. Once low-income students get here, the University shouldn't subvert that policy by subtly encouraging them to divert their energies into the one activity on campus that will pay the entire bill. Instead, to take advantage of its diversity, Harvard must do all it can to encourage students to spend less time making ends meet and more time partaking in he campus community.
A sponsor of the original council resolution asserted that, "Those students who are attracted to ROTC are economically disadvantaged." Bringing ROTC to campus for that very reason is aiding and abetting the problem, and hopefully the decision-makers at this University will understand why.