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Seniors Move On, Lazily


By Gady A. Epstein

First, an apology: This column is not well-reported. I wasted too much time being a second-semester senior.

I was supposed to start working on this article Thursday, asking second-semester seniors what they were doing with their time.

Then someone offered me tickets to the Red Sox game. Suddenly, the column didn't matter much anymore, and neither did the lecture and section I skipped to go to the game.

Then, Thursday night, I started reporting. I went to a party my roommate was living in the common room, and lo and behold, I found seniors! I used the opportunity to interview a couple of them that I didn't know, and I also interviewed one of my blockmates. Ethics--journalistic and otherwise--don't matter that much in your final semester.

After waking up yesterday afternoon, I did some more reporting. I interviewed a few more seniors, and I tried to reach others, including campus figures: the inestimable Michael P. Beys '94, former Undergraduate Council chair; Zaheer R. Ali '94, former Black Students Association President; etc. (Okay, there's no "etc." I only tried to reach two campus figures).

That said, what follows is a thoroughly researched report on what seniors are doing with their time. Some testimonials:

"I watched the whole Olympics," says one Quincy resident who has no thesis. (Several seniors interviewed requested anonymity because they didn't want people to know how little work they were doing). She also spends her time taking naps every day ("short naps," she says).

"I'm running off to job interviews even though I'm not going to take a job, just to get all the free trips," says a senior who has parlayed his job search into free trips to Tokyo, France and London--and yes, he collects all the frequent--flyer miles.

Sounds like a scam, doesn't it? The same senior actually has a thesis due soon, but he won't be found doing much work on it. And he just got his first "C-" on a paper, but don't ask him if he cares.

"This year's a joke," he says. "It's just a formality. You just have to finish your core classes and graduate."

Then there are my blockmates, who specialize in, well, doing nothing. One of them (he has no thesis and two pass-fail courses) alternates between sitting on his ass and going around talking about how he has to go do some more "sitting on [his] ass."

Another blockmate: "I sleep. I occasionally go to classes, when I remember them. When I remember my assignments, I try and do them."

How can he be so lackadaisical? "I'm taking three courses. I only need to pass two of them to graduate. It's awesome."

"Many" seniors (my definition of "many" is "most of the few people I interviewed") say they have more time this semester than any other semester at Harvard. As my blockmate says, "For the first time, the way I spend my time isn't dictated by my classes."

Some seniors who are not my blockmates have used their time to grow as individuals, just as Thoreau did by skipping pebbles at Walden Pond. A few go rockclimbing and one just learned how to play Mah Jong, but for many, all this free time hasn't exactly produced a transcendental effect: that is, seniors thinking, reflecting and growing as people.

"I don't tend to do a lot of thinking these days," says Tobias T. Lee '94, a Cabot House resident.

But life has been more difficult for students writing theses.

"I have never been under more academic stress than I have been in the last three weeks," says Elizabeth D. Kilmartin '94, a biology concentrator in Winthrop House. Although Kilmartin does have plans to waste time after her thesis is due, I cut this interview short. Who needs to be depressed with other people's problems?

Then, Zaheer Ali returned my phone call. But he has a thesis due, too, in Afro-American studies.

"I've done the senior thesis procrastination thing, but right now I'm not doing that," Ali says. Otherwise, he's only had time for "planning the revolution," he says with a laugh.

In the meantime, those seniors--including me--who chose not to write theses worship lazily at the altar of "Cum Laude, General Studies."

Other than that, we seniors have no God.

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