It was a trickle, building to a stream and then a veritable tsunami: frantic students brandishing papers and staplers and running desperately toward the Core office at 38 Kirkland Street.
Questioning onlookers got only a one-word reply to their stares: Justice.
Or more specifically, the first paper of the year in Professor of Government Michael J. Sandel's massive "Moral Reasoning 22" class was due yesterday, and it had a strict 3 p.m. deadline.
Approximately 200 students of the 926 in the class attempted to slide in during the last half-hour before the countdown reached zero and their grades dropped by a third of a full grade, says "Justice" teaching fellow Sally Gibbons.
And being Harvard students, they were willing to risk life and limb--and those of hapless bystanders as well--for that small difference between a B+ and an A- (or for the less fortunate, a C+ and a B-).
"There was a mass rush of people running up to 38 Kirkland St.," said David W. Brown '97, who arrived at about 2:50 p.m. "They didn't even care about getting hit by cars."
The paper-toting herd was helpful for many, however, as first-year students fresh from their first all-nighter emerged blinking into the sunlight and found a building they had never before visited.
"I was proofreading my paper as I ran," said Sophia F. Chen '97, who was hightailing it to Kirkland Street at 2:59. "It was really crazy."
Lines started to form during the last 45 minutes before the deadline, Gibbons said.
She and other course leaders kept alphabetical categories to prevent the huge influx of papers from becoming a disorganized mess.
One student turning in her paper didn't appreciate the system, however. "You feel like a piece of cattle," she said.
The paper has been a topic of campus discussion all week, as dining room talk shifted from the quality of the savory baked tofu to the ethics of selling organs--one of the two possible questions.
The other topic was the moral obligation to prevent human suffering, but popular wisdom definitely supported a "pro-organ selling" stance as the easiest thesis option.
Not everyone took that position, of course.
"I think voluntary donorship is good, but Idon't think people should be able to buy and sellorgans," said Lucy V. Hooper '97.
Sandel himself declined to comment on whichtopic he would have chosen to write on but said heplans a poll in today's class to find whatstudents chose.
"I'm curious myself about which topic will bemost popular," he said.
The chair of Harvard's University SciencePolicy Committee, Provost Jerry R. Green, says hewould have taken an anti-organ selling stance.
"I have to say it bothers me [a trade in organsfrom live donors], I don't know why," he says."It's just a gut feeling."
Then the second-highest ranking Universityadministrator caught himself.
"But perhaps that's not an apt metaphor," hesaid