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Too Much of a Good Thing



Another rainy afternoon has fallen upon the Yard, and that dreary lazy feeling is slowly beginning to retard any attempt to steep myself in the intricacies of fiscal policy or the wise words of Professor Martin S. Feldstein '61. No, I don't think Ec 10 will receive my attention today. Of course, wet afternoons aren't a time for study; they're a time for reflection.

As I look back upon a year whose opening days of meeting roommates and hearing Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles warn us to "beware of snow drops"--its meaning today eludes me--are as vivid as Friday's union demonstration, it is difficult not to sit back and try to fill in the gaps.

Those lucky enough to read the article on Harvard's admissions process in The New York Times Magazine, probably felt a renewed sense of the initial exultation upon receiving The Letter; that feeling of "wow, I actually got in, I'm going to Harvard." I know I did, but it is a feeling that has been renewed and heightened not by the article's described difficulty of the admissions process, but by a sense of fortune derived from my own experiences my first year.

It might be true that a certain amount of those admitted come to Harvard because it's Harvard--and I do not wholly discount myself from this group.

But when I look at the sum total of my experiences as a first-year, it is not difficult to see why Harvard's very name is its most effective recruiting tool. For there is a reason for that name. Harvard is "Harvard" because of the classes its students take, the experiences they share and the other students with whom they meet and interact.

There are those of you who might find my enthusiasm for Harvard slightly exaggerated, and I don't cast Harvard as an institution without many imperfections. But, what I do acknowledge--as I'm sure many of you, current and past first-year alike will as well--is that the experiences which you have had at Harvard far exceeded any you might have anticipated.

Indeed it is this wide spectrum of experiences which gives Harvard its allure. For some of us this amounts to joining the hordes of eager rowers on the Charles or meeting prominent political figures; for others, it is the opportunity to start up our own Shakespeare company. But there is more. There are the classes which make falling out of bed not a chore but a welcomed awakening. There are those professors who in their eccentric personalities and plaid bowties invite you to their office hours and beg you to stay and chat.

And then there are the students you meet. I'll try not to fall into using the diversity jargon, but as one of my friends said, one of the great things about Harvard is that if you have a question, someone around you will answer it. His observation isn't just about the intelligence of our student body however. It speaks more to the diversity of opinions and ideas which at Harvard are greater than any place you'll encounter.

Someone on the first information tour I gave asked me what was so great about this whole idea. And while I do not write for the guidebook, I feel that it amounts to the fact that while your friends will have similar interests and opinions as you, it is those students whom often you don't know or know informally whose opinions incite you to formulate arguments and to pin-point your own beliefs.

If it is not obvious from what I have written, my first year has confirmed what I had always felt about Harvard. The poorly contrived questions of the first-year questionaire might not reflect it, and there may have been the occasionally boring class, unintelligible professor, series of rainy days or poor advising session, but on balance my first year has been overwhelmingly memorable. And if my Harvard experience follows along these lines, it will be one for which I'll be always nostalgic.

Having sung the praises of my first year and the Harvard experience, however, with exams looming more ominously than today's black clouds, I'm feeling a certain anxiety to leave the sanctity of the Yard and return to the comforts of Michigan. And I'm not necessarily sure that I am alone in this regard.

Indeed, a certain readiness to depart is hovering over the Harvard campus. Protesters are finding new reasons to force Harvard to place plain-clothed officers in front of Mass. Hall, gates are being locked to keep disgruntled thieves outside the Yard and roommates are testing each other's will to see how tall the trash pile can build. The fact that high school friends are already enjoying the fruits of summer laziness doesn't help the situation either.

Yes, for all of my love for Harvard, there is even for this hallowed institution a yearly saturation point. Indeed, I think we're approaching the point of having too much of a good thing.

That would probably be, however, why we have exams right around the corner. Well, if I haven't reflected, at least I've found a reason to relearn the components of aggregate demand. Hello sourcebook.

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