The Red Line
Last semester, Tara Raghuveer ‘14 and Jennifer Zhu ‘14 ran for Undergraduate Council President and Vice President on a platform that called on the University, among other things, to consider the Committee on Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality as a department. Harvard’s upcoming capital campaign, which has received great coverage in The Crimson during the past week, seemsa fitting path to a department of gender studies.
There are many parts of the capital campaign that deserve and in fact require student input. (For example, I’m confused by the notion that funding priorities that don’t excite donors “are tweaked or eliminated during the vetting process”—what about funding parts of this University that may not excite Harvard’s wealthiest donors?) But for this column, I would like to focus on the implications of one possible funding target. What would a WGS department mean for the role of feminist and queer thought in our university?
I want to stray a little bit from the general theme of my column and address this piece to my professors, three of whom have recently written me kind emails or spoken to me about my performance in class. Although all have assured me that my comments in seminar are smart, insightful, and productive, they have told me something similar—that if I want to be taken seriously, I should change the way I speak.
I think that they should change the way they listen.
As Harvard takes the lead on a bold new plan “to reach out to students of all ages, means, and nations,” using the latest technology and the power of Harvard’s name to distribute knowledge across the globe, I’ve found myself wondering—why am I not more excited about edX?
Its themes of democracy and progress, coupled with the promise of redistribution of power through education, seem exactly the sort of things that a leftist university student like me would swoon over. Yet I still feel slightly uneasy with edX’s promise to reform both Harvard and global education through an online platform. Perhaps this is because of the assumption that everyone in the world wants to access Harvard professors’ knowledge, and perhaps it’s because of Harvard’s supposition that simply making information available online will reach students “of all means.”
I would bet that this academic year has been the Faust administration’s hardest to date.
Every university faces its share of critics. Harvard has had many in the past year, ranging from the nearly 200 faculty members who signed a petition decrying the University’s response to Occupy Harvard last year to the tens of thousands who called on Harvard not to appoint former Mexican President Felipe Calderon to a fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government earlier this semester. But although responses like these may put uncomfortable pressure on a university, none have rocked national news headlines and put quite so much public heat on the Faust administration as this year’s cheating scandal.
My concentration is apparently the most satisfying one at Harvard: Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality is known for its small class sizes, excellent advising, and wonderful community. Even so, I used to feel nervous walking into the WGS office to meet a professor—until I learned that WGS’s program coordinator would always warmly greet me. This semester, each time she walks out of her office to talk to me about my coursework or my life, thte WGS coordinator updates the sign on her office door with a new sticky note: “245 days without a contract!”
Like 4,600 other members of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, the WGS coordinator has been working without a wage raise since June 2011. Sadly, Harvard's ongoing negotiations with its clerical workers demonstrate a fundamental lack of respect for the people who make Harvard run. Whether negotiations focused on health care, size of the bargaining unit, or wages, Harvard has sent the signal that respecting workers' time and lives is not a top priority for our university.