University to Change ‘Fair Harvard’ Lyrics

Girma’s Serenade
Eden H. Girma '18 performs a song at the Afternoon of Engagement on Inclusion and Belonging on Wednesday.
UPDATED: April 6, 2017 at 1:21 p.m.

Harvard will hold a competition to change the final line of “Fair Harvard,” the University’s 181-year-old alma mater, which has read “Till the stock of the Puritans die” since its composition in 1836.

Government professor Danielle S. Allen, co-chair of Presidential Task Force for Inclusion and Belonging, announced the plans to change the lyric at a three-hour event the task force held Wednesday in Sanders Theatre. Convened by University President Drew G. Faust in September, the committee is tasked with evaluating Harvard’s efforts to create an inclusive environment and recommend improvements.

The group is also launching a second competition for “a new musical variant" of the alma mater that could be performed as electronic, hip hop, or spoken word music. The traditional music would remain the official mode of performance for the song, but the new mode would be “preserved by the University as an endorsed alternative,” according to the group’s website—“The inspiration is 'Hamilton.' The point is to use your imagination,” it reads.

University affiliates can submit lyric and music variant submissions on the task force’s website through September, and winners will be announced in spring 2018.

Also at Wednesday’s event, the “Afternoon of Engagement on Inclusion and Belonging” featured remarks from Faust, stories from Harvard affiliates, and collaborative exercises designed to inform the task force’s future discussions.

In her welcoming remarks, Faust shared a story about receiving letters from young girls around the world after she became the University’s first female president.

“Diversity, inclusion, and belonging are fundamental to our missions and to our identity and essential for creating a better university, and the responsibility for that is one shared by students, faculty, and staff,” she said.

Individuals from across the University then took to the stage to discuss their personal experiences with “belonging.”

Kalan Chang, an administrator at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, shared his story about immigrating to the United States without knowing any English, and then working his way to an Extension School degree and his current position at Harvard.

Eden H. Girma ’18, the only undergraduate to speak, recalled participating in a protest at Primal Scream, a biannual naked run around Harvard Yard before the first day of finals. The protesters wanted to observe minute and a half of silence for black men killed by police, Girma said.

“Thinking back to that experience, with all of the emotions that I had, I can only see at the moment, that seems so clear to me, seeing two Harvards. One, a student body that felt so intrinsically implicated in the violence that was happening in the world, and another that seemed so blind to that,” Girma said. “Thinking retrospectively, I know there are so many nuances to this.”

Sophia Y. Lozano, assistant manager for Winthrop dining services and a member of the task force, said she was particularly touched by Girma’s speech.

“Being a minority, I can connect to a lot of the stories about you want to belong but you know you don’t,” she said. “As a woman being in the culinary field, when I first came in, it was a man’s world.”

For the latter part of the afternoon, attendees formed small groups to discuss prompts such as “share an experience where you or someone you know felt that they didn’t belong at Harvard” and “how can we bring Harvard closer to our aspirations?” Each group designated a “scribe” to take notes to submit to the task force’s website.

—Staff writer Mia C. Karr can be reached at mia.karr@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @miackarr

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