Dear Mr. President

Harvard in Mind

Dear Mr./Ms. Perfect,

Congratulations! You have been selected to be the next President of Harvard University. You follow in the weighty footsteps of people whose names grace buildings all across the Yard. Raise us enough money and maybe you'll get one too. But first, before you can formally take office in Mass. Hall, we ask that you go through a simple initiation process with the undergraduate community.

We know that you might not be aware that Harvard University has undergraduates. All we can say is, "Surprise! You've already signed the 10-year contract!"


But don't worry, after you've completed these few simple tasks, the College will slip softly from your mind only to return for a few fleeting seconds twice a semester when your secretary cancels your office hour. Here is your initiation itinerary, please be no more than seven minutes late to any event (no, seven is not a random number).

9 a.m. Swim test. While undergraduates are no longer required to take this particular arbitrary test of adequacy (don't worry, there are many others, like Freshman Seminar applications and grades) the president, according to legend, must always be prepared for the eventuality that his or her behemoth cruise ship founders upon an iceberg. Ice floes in the Charles River simulate the freezing conditions of the North Atlantic.

10 a.m. Immunizations at University Health Services (UHS). Whoops! The Charles is only safe to swim in 360 out of 365 days of the year, so you'll have to take rabies, tetanus and West Nile virus shots. Don't worry, trained professionals will be injecting those huge needles in your won't hurt a bit.

3 p.m. Wow, you waded through that bureaucracy faster than we expected. That's probably why they made you President of Harvard and not those three other schmucks. It's time for your first section in Historical Studies A-69: Ancient Babylonian Folkways (attending lecture is neither required nor encouraged). You may be wondering why you can't take History 56: Ancient Babylonian Folkways, but the Core Office assures you that only one of these courses will teach you an approach to learning. Can you guess which one? The reason you can't understand the hot, young foreign student standing in front of you is partly that you still have some Charles River mud stuck in your ear and partly that he is speaking in Babylonian. Almost all of our TFs are similarly gifted in foreign languages (not all of them are gifted in English).

4 p.m. You will be held responsible for the problem set you've just been assigned. But don't worry about that 15-page paper due next week, we're sure you can get an extension. Next it's off to participate in some extracurricular fun! You'll spend the next hour in 15 minute shifts, first in front of the Science Center acquiring frostbite as you hand out fliers urging stressed-out pre-meds to boycott animal testing, second in the cramped, smelly office of the Undergraduate Council in the basement of Holworthy drafting yourself a letter on a computer held together with safety pins, asking for permission to sell potato chip bags to raise money for student groups. Your third station is a meeting with College administrators where you have 15 minutes to explain why undergraduate education is important in the quest for world peace. Finally, spend your last 15 minutes hanging out with the friends you've made during these activities. Yes, this is your social life.


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