Crimson STAFF writer
Harvard has always had a remarkable confidence in the importance and distinctiveness of its own history. The University library boasts a “Harvardiana” section and the Harvard Archives, junior history concentrators study Harvard history in tutorial and this semester Plummer Professor of Christian Morals Rev. Peter J. Gomes taught a Harvard history class (Religion 1513, “Harvard: Five Centuries and Eight Presidents”). Although the history of the past four years has undeniably been shaped by events in the world beyond the Yard, the Class of 2002 also witnessed important developments in the institutional history of Harvard.
One of the biggest news stories to come out of the 1998-1999 school year was the increase in student activism on a number of issues. The Living Wage Campaign agitated for higher wages for Harvard employees, the Coalition Against Sexual Violence condemned the College’s policies concerning sexual assault as insufficient and unfair, and Students Against Sweatshops protested Harvard’s use of factories with poor labor conditions in the production of apparel with the Harvard name. In March 1999, these three groups came together for a “Rally for Justice.” Various other incidents of student protest have occurred throughout the past four years. But the prominence of student activism as an issue for Harvard students and historians alike was established by the 21-day occupation of Massachusetts Hall by members of the Progressive Student Labor Movement (PSLM) in April 2001. The sit-in spawned Tent City in the Yard, national media coverage and heated debates in dining halls and dorm rooms about the merits of PSLM’s tactics and their demands for an hourly living wage of $10.25 for Harvard’s lowest-paid employees. In the spring of 2002, the University agreed to a series of wage increases for its janitors and guards. (The University is still negotiating the details of a pay raise for its dining service employees.) Negotiations for the wage increases were based upon recommendations set forth by the Harvard Committee on Employment and Contracting Policies, which was established as part of the settlement ending the sit-in.
The New President
The departure of Harvard president and fundraiser extraordinaire Neil L. Rudenstine sparked a nationwide search for the next leader of Harvard. The University’s presidential search committee selected former Treasury Secretary (and former member of the Harvard Faculty) Lawrence H. Summers. From the beginning, Summers styled himself as a different kind of president than Rudenstine, deliberately scheduling interactions with students, making his interest in improving the undergraduate experience and expanding the faculty known, and even appearing in a halftime show at a home football game. Summers also displayed a readiness to speak out publicly on issues pertaining to Harvard and higher education—after Sept. 11 he expressed support for Harvard students in ROTC and called on the University to support the nation and not be afraid of patriotism. But a meeting with Fletcher University Professor Cornel R. West ’74 soured his promising beginning. The meeting—in which Summers reportedly raised questions about West’s non-academic activities and informed West that he would monitor his academic output—became a public measure of Summers’s general support for affirmative action and diversity in academia. The brouhaha attracted national media attention. Summer came under attack for his abrasive style and seeming inability or unwillingness to smooth ruffled feathers. At the end of his first year, Summers’s presidency has already shown itself to be a striking contrast to Rudenstine’s.
The persistent complaints of Kenan Professor of Government Harvey “C-minus” Mansfield ’53 regarding the general grading practices of Harvard teaching fellows and Faculty helped bring about greater outside scrutiny of grade inflation at Harvard. Mansfield’s suggestion that the admission of larger numbers of black students in the 1970s contributed to or initiated this trend earned him the ire of the Black Students’ Association, but his vocal criticism of the number of high grades earned by Harvard students helped draw national media coverage to the numbers of undergraduates in the United States who earn high grades. The University revealed that 91 percent of last year’s graduating seniors graduated with some sort of an honors degree, and the grade inflation controversy inspired debates about whether the hardest thing about Harvard was getting in or whether Harvard students had simply become smarter and more capable, thus deserving a higher number of A’s than their predecessors. In May, the Faculty responded by implementing limits on the number of honors degrees awarded and changing the Harvard grading system from a 15 point scale to a 4.0 scale. About 50 percent of Harvard students, beginning with the Class of 2005, will graduate without honors.
Women of the Class of 2002 were the last group to be jointly admitted to Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges. The merger of Radcliffe College with Harvard, announced in the spring of 1999, put Harvard College alone in charge of female undergraduates. Radcliffe took on the title of an “Institute for Advanced Study.” The merger made Radcliffe a Harvard “tub,” on par with the University’s other schools, and was the culmination of a long effort to resolve the confusion concerning the relationship between Harvard and Radcliffe and the role that Radcliffe should play in supporting female undergraduates. A 2002 survey by The Crimson showed that most undergraduates do not have a clear understanding of the purpose of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
Undefeated Football Season
The first three football seasons for the Class of 2002 were relatively decent, but despite the Crimson’s best efforts, they could defeat neither the University of Pennsylvania nor Yale. All that changed in the 2001 season, when a rapidly growing string of victories brought students to home games en masse. Football games began to resemble the social events they had been in days of old, and as each week brought another win, the promise of an Ivy League championship and a victory over Yale loomed large. Penn fell to the Crimson on a gorgeous fall afternoon at the last home game of the season, and the next week’s triumph at Yale earned the Crimson their first undefeated season since 1913.
Perhaps we’ve taken fly-by bag lunches for granted and not for the innovation they were when they were introduced our freshman year. Brain Breaks were introduced at the beginning of junior year; the so-called fourth meal was another response to students’ odd schedules and dietary demands. But the largest changes in food services have come in the form of gleaming and spacious new serveries for an increasing number of Houses: Eliot, Kirkland, Winthrop and Lowell, and after this summer, all three Quad Houses. Complaints about the menu rotation persist, but there is no doubt that many undergraduates have benefited from a more aesthetically pleasing dining experience.
When Suzanne M. Pomey ’02 and Randy J. Gomes ’02 were indicted for grand larceny for allegedly stealing over $90,000 from the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, much of the campus (and many of The Crimson’s editorial columnists) couldn’t help but speculate and gossip about the scandal. Prosecutors charge the pair with using the stolen funds to finance “lavish lifestyles” and Gomes’ expensive drug habit. Rumors about past extravagances and transgressions—like Pomey’s open-bar 21st birthday bash, financed by Gomes, or Pomey’s less than honest behavior as business manager of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals and a leader in women’s social organizations—became breakfast-table reading material and dinnertime conversation fodder for students who hadn’t even known what the pair looked like until the picture of their arraignment appeared on the front page of The Crimson. Gomes and Pomey pled not guilty to the charges and will likely face trial later this year.
Changes in the Square
Good Will Hunting reminded us that the Class of 2002 had arrived after the demise of the Square’s famed hamburger eatery, The Tastee. But soon The Bow and Arrow and even the Baskin Robbins that appeared in the movie disappeared. The past four years also saw the demise of that favorite first-year hangout, the Crimson Sports Grille, yuppie Grafton Street, and the pan-Asian restaurant Ma Soba. In the mean time, the Square has witnessed the arrival of Abercrombie & Fitch, Pacific Sunwear, Daedalus and Peet’s Coffee House. Soon Harvard Square will see the phoenix-like reappearance of Grafton Street, but not, unfortunately, before graduation.
BJ the Infamous Stowaway
In November 1999, B.J. Averell ’02-’03 found himself the unfortunate victim of the nightmare that is Thanksgiving travel. Denied his seat on his Delta flight to Philadelphia in favor of a standby passenger, Averell snuck onto the plane and hid in the bathroom. Unluckily for him, a passenger spotted him and reported him to the flight crew. Arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct, Averell pled not guilty and the charges against him were eventually dropped. The incident attracted national media coverage and made Averell a campus celebrity. Averell would maintain his high-profile, running an unsuccessful and violation-ridden campaign for the Undergraduate Council presidency, performing in the Hasty Pudding Theatricals show, and, with B.J. Novak ’01, bringing Bob Saget to Harvard for the second of their two “B.J. Shows.”