Harvard 'Caring' Destroys Personal Worth

The Last Glance Askance

AFTER FOURS YEARS of writing for The Crimson, I have come to think that there is one question above all others which Harvard students must answer: Does the individual person matter?

Most Harvard students seem to think they answer this question in the affirmative. Once they elaborate their expression and justification of the principle of personal worth, however, the conventional Harvard answer frightens me. In trying to ungroup people, they inevitably group individuals into arbitrary categories. Then, they invoke these categories to fashion an egalitarian society. The interests of the individuals they would equalize are pitted against one another instead of reconciled. This artificial reconstruction emasculates the worth of the individual, depriving the answer of any sound basis and of all concrete meaning.

Pondering Harvard's answers to the question, I have tried to discern what it is about those responses that repulses (and attracts) me. In what way does this standard prove deficient? How exactly does it deprive the individual person of worth? And what might be offered to correct the deficiencies I see in Harvard's solutions to problems relating to this question?

PERSONS ARE HARDLY isolated individuals. We define and are defined by our relations to others, relations to friends and especially to family. Romantic love seems forever a goal of many Harvard students, and for most members of our culture. Recently, several non-Harvard friends of mine have culminated their romances in marriage. Even some of my Harvard friends are engaged now, and are thinking about having children.

One old friend of mine married on December 28, I attended the wedding and spoke with several of her seven siblings. At the reception I ran into the father of several friends of mine whose youngest daughter also married recently.


These marriages merit mention because of their connection with children. The bride and groom of the wedding I attended met at the annual January "March for Life" in 1990. (Two years ago today.) Both, obviously, are committed anti-abortionists. They are marrying young, but they have considered their options long enough and seem ready to start the fusion of two lives which marriage entails.

In contrast, the older sister of my recently married friend had a child out of wedlock many years ago. She gave their child up for adoption. Not the best way to bring a child into the world. And a classmate of my brother's married early last year because his girl-friend became pregnant. Not the best reason to get married.

But the lives of these less lucky friends of mine are not ruined. The couple who decided they must get married have merely had their lives changed and their options narrowed.

These friends' families are all as religious as the Pope. What separates them from many families in our society is that they realize that morality, to be pertinent to life, must be person-centered. They are against pre-marital sexual intercourse. But instead of making their children anathema when they get pregnant or get their girl-friends pregnant, they choose to help them.

At Harvard we hear much about "choosing" whether or not to become sexually active. We rarely hear that there might be something wrong with the way our society makes use of sex. (We do hear about women being treated as "sex objects" as something wrong. This is only part of the story, however.) The discussion also rarely considers that sexual activity might involve the question of what to do with the person who might be created by sexual intercourse.

The Harvard administration fails to respond to its students' need for guidance in all aspects of this issue. We at Harvard pretend to care. We pretend to be liberal-minded about sex and all its aspects. As a recent Crimson Opinion piece noted, though, we still think there's something wrong with Harvard women getting pregnant. And with their taking a few months out of their academic careers to have the children which result sometimes from even contraceptive sex.

Those Harvard women who have abortions, about 40 a year (extrapolating from the cost of abortion and the funding which goes to UHS-referred abortions each year), might be helped with more than just abortion services. Harvard does its students a disservice by providing no special programs which might encourage women to have their children. Peer Contraceptive Counselors (PCC) frequently posters the campus with titillating slogans about sex and contraception. PCC has UHS backing.

If there is a similar Peer Maternity Counseling group, I haven't seen it advertised. Why not? Harvard takes the easy way out, that's why. And encourages its students to do the same. By putting its resources and support staff into stopgap measures like abortion counseling, Harvard shows that it cares about appearances. (The administration, perhaps, doesn't want to have to deal with a bunch of pregnant women.)

It doesn't appear to care about its students--or the children who might result from its students' actions. By not insisting that something more be done to help make motherhood more attractive (while still ensuring the completion of a Harvard education) we students show our own lack of concern.

We think, in other words, that if we respond with caring to whatever someone does, we have fulfilled our obligations to help to protect her individual worth. But if Harvard students actually cared about individuals, they would be beating down President Rudenstine's door, demanding help for those who, with help, would want to have their children.

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