Bridging the Gap

Despite the benefits of UC funding, Opening Days programming cannot replace a summer bridge program.

UPDATED: Apr. 13, 2011, at 3:40 p.m.

Despite the unique difficulties that low-income and first-generation students face in their transition to college, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana rejected a proposal to create a summer bridge program. In response, the Undergraduate Council announced plans to fund additional programming for freshmen during Opening Days. This funding would be available to 89 affinity groups associated with the Student Advisory Committee of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations in order to help these groups increase their programming and help students transition to life at Harvard.

While we commend UC President Yasmin Z. Sachee ’18 and Vice President Cameron K. Khansarinia ’18 for developing these plans, this solution is ultimately unsustainable and can only, as the two acknowledged in their email last Wednesday, be a starting point for a comprehensive first-year bridge program.

As proponents of the UC initiative themselves realize, the task of distributing funds to 89 different organizations is difficult. The budget will attempt to incentivize student groups to work together in order to prevent the dilution of funding grants. While this is logistically necessary, it will most likely have a negative effect on the quality of programming as no two groups' needs are the same. Forcing collaboration could lead to the conflation of unique experiences and needs.

Obtaining sufficient funds also appears difficult under this plan. A group’s funding needs can be difficult to determine by arbitrary metrics, and the UC may not even have the financial strength to provide sufficient resources. This would be especially challenging given that many of the SAC groups serve low-income students.

In the first few weeks of school, freshmen should be exploring the variety of extracurricular and social opportunities available to them, not seeking out help for their struggles. Though the UC has encouraged groups to spread out programming across two weekends, disadvantaged students may still be set back by the additional time demanded. Because of this, a transition program before the year starts is the best solution.

Perhaps most importantly, the administration should realize that it is unfair to place the burden of creating and funding this programming on current undergraduates, often from marginalized backgrounds and who are themselves struggling to navigate Harvard. Incoming students should not have to solely rely on other students to teach them how to navigate this institution and its unique academic systems.

Ultimately, no effort will be sustainable or complete without greater participation by Harvard. Measures like the UC’s will hopefully improve the ability of student groups to provide resources, but the best and most comprehensive option remains, as we have said before, a summer bridge program for low-income and first-generation students. Anything less is a disservice to the students who have yet to walk through Harvard's gates.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

CORRECTION: Apr. 13, 2016

A previous version of editorial indicated that the UC funded programming would take place during Opening Days. The programming is expected to take place after Opening Days, during the first two weeks of September, depending on the student groups' schedules.

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