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Whatever one thinks about censoring the Band, their University-inspected performance at halftime of the Harvard-Army football game pointed out one scandalous thing about this college's student body; it doesn't know the words to "Ten Thousand Men of Harvard."
As the band led the crowd in a medley of Harvard fight songs, the students mumbled the words like a chorus of people who get called on in class and haven't done the reading. The only people actually singing were those carefully following song sheets the band had distributed, and a few singing group members who had been forced to learn the words. But the bulk of the partisans moved their lips, talked with friends or put bottles in their mouths to mask their utter fight song illiteracy.
Now, it's fine for students to have no idea what the lyrics are to "Wintergreen" of "Our Director," but "Ten Thousand Men of Harvard"--that's just plain pathetic. That eight-line ditty should be a student's minimum Harvard lore requirement. No need to wear a Harvard T-shirt or put Harvard stickers on the windows of the family station wagon. You don't even have to come to your 25th Reunion, but you should learn those eight simple lines.
Something has to be done--and quickly. Dartmouth looms, and you know that all those Hanoverians know their fight songs.
Failing that, there needs to be a long-term institutional response to this problem. The University tends to shy away from requiring students to do anything specific, but this is a special case.
What the administration should do next year is force every freshman to recite "Ten Thousand Men of Harvard" at the pool before taking the swimming test. A student would just sing and then jump in and swim 50 yards. It's an easy way to knock off two birds with one stone.
Mrs. Widener probably didn't have this in mind when she tied her 1913 library endowment to the establishment of a swimming test, but it's hard to believe she would object to this second requirement.
So let's all--including me--learn "Ten Thousand Men" in time for tomorrow's Dartmouth game, and write our Undergraduate Council representative to advocate for a new songfest at the swim test.
By the way:
Ten thousand men of Harvard
Want victory today
For they know that o'er old Eli
Fair Harvard holds away
So then we'll conquer all old Eli's men
And when the game ends, we'll sing again
Ten thousand men of Harvard
Won vict'ry today.
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