Last week, just minutes before Harvard announced the cancellation of Visitas, we sent to press a staff editorial welcoming admitted students and urging them to explore Harvard’s many offerings during a fun-filled weekend of programming. Needless to say, some of the content of our editorial seemed a bit incompatible with Friday’s unprecedented city-wide lockdown and manhunt. Nevertheless, we are undaunted in our conviction that Harvard offers an incomparable educational experience and one-of-a-kind intellectual community. More importantly, we believe that the response of Harvard and the Boston community to the bombing and resulting manhunt demonstrate qualities of both the school and wider area that ought to make coming to Cambridge even more attractive than before.
Without a doubt, the marathon bombings, the shooting of an MIT police officer, and a day-long lockdown and manhunt made last week a tense time for the Harvard and Boston communities. But the city’s response to these events displayed competence, dedication, and resilience. The Boston Police Department mobilized in an impressive display of organization and force to find bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Their communication with both federal authorities and local citizens was effective and comforting. Residents of Boston also exhibited their solidarity and commitment to safety by cooperating with a lockdown and stay-indoors request. Here on campus, Securitas and the Harvard University Police Department dedicated themselves to our safety, Harvard University Dining Services staff braved danger to come to work, and housemasters, tutors, and proctors reached out to students and demonstrated their care for our wellbeing.
The student response at Harvard also demonstrates the strength of this community. Students at Harvard Kennedy School and at the College organized candlelight vigils to honor victims of the marathon bombings. And in response to Harvard’s cancellation of Visitas, the hashtag #VirtualVisitas immediately trended on Twitter as Harvard students, affiliates, and alumni felt compelled to reach out to admitted students who would no longer have the opportunity to visit. On their own initiative, students like those in freshman dorms Holworthy and Wigglesworth created videos to share their love of Harvard with those who had been denied the Visitas experience. On the official side of things, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 and the rest of Harvard College Admissions made sure to reach out to the admitted students stranded at Boston Logan Airport on Friday and to other prefrosh in the midst of their journeys to Visitas, even providing the former group with accommodations at a local hotel.
Surveys of crime rates and safety statistics have ranked Boston and Cambridge among the safest cities in America, but these numbers are just part of a much larger picture. What is more important is that students here find comfort in those less quantitative measures that display the remarkable quality of this community. The way in which Harvard united in the face of terror confirms that this is a place worth choosing. We hope that the events of last week and the cancellation of Visitas have not discouraged admitted students from considering Harvard as they weigh options for next year—last week made us even more grateful that this is the place where we decided to spend our college years.