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So Senior Gift Plus actually worked. For the first time in 400 years, the Harvard Corporation bowed to student calls for something, and an important something at that: divestment from a company which does business in the genocidal state of Sudan.
The mass murder in Sudan is a tragedy of a scope I cannot comprehend. I applaud Senior Gift Plus founders Matthew W. Mahan ’05 and Brandon M. Terry ’05 for bringing it to the forefront of our collective consciousness in a way that could actually effect change in the way the University does business.
But despite their success, Mahan and Terry are missing a more fundamental point about life at Harvard: The Powers That Be don’t give a rat’s ass about what undergraduates want. With the exception of a few low-level deans, the entire bureaucracy is meant to stifle, bully, intimidate, and ignore undergraduates into agreeing with whatever ridiculous hoops they’re expected to jump through.
What Senior Gift Plus shows us is that the best recourse for seniors wishing to give notice they won’t stand idly by while Harvard ignores their soon-to-be former classmates is to withhold Senior Gift. As Senior Gift participation rates are widely used as propaganda by the University to show wealthy alums that undergrads are happy with their College experience and thus that Harvard deserves a donation, the most effective way to voice dissatisfaction is to simply refuse to contribute.
Inasmuch as students are unhappy with their Harvard experience because of Harvard’s likely continuing investment in companies that do business in Sudan, Senior Gift Plus is an effective and appropriate way of withholding Senior Gift.
But if seniors are not genuinely happy with their college experience for other reasons, they shouldn’t shill for Harvard by giving to Senior Gift Plus or to Senior Gift.
Even those who are thrilled by the divestment from PetroChina must acknowledge that it is but a small step towards a Harvard that cares about undergraduates and undergraduate contentment.
For those seniors still on the fence about whether or not they should give to Senior Gift, I’ve made a handy guide that can be used to determine their level of happiness with the Harvard experience. Keep score and check the end for your results.
• Score 1 point for every incompetent or incomprehensible TF (max ten).
• 3 points if you would have changed your concentration because of an awesome course that really piqued your interest and aroused your intellectual curiosity, but you couldn’t because of excessive concentration, Core, and other requirements.
• 2 points if you’re still waiting for cable television in your dorm room.
• 2 points if you think that the only reason Harvard divested from PetroChina is to “wag the dog” and remove attention from the recent scandal concerning Larry Summers.
• 5 points if you’re bothered that, even after making a big deal over divesting from PetroChina, Harvard continues to refuse to disclose whether it invests in other corporations which do business in Sudan.
• 4 points if you don’t understand why Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 is refusing to accede to the overwhelming student support for a Renewable Energy termbill fee.
• 2 points for every class you’ve taken with more than 15 hours of class time and work per week. (max 20 points)
• 4 points if you think Harvard should allow the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) back on campus and is being unpatriotic by refusing to do so.
• 4 points if you think Harvard is doing too much to support discrimination at ROTC by providing official “backdoor” funding of some ROTC activities.
• 3 points if you can’t think of two good reasons for Harvard to have a mandatory, one-size-fits-all meal plan.
• 4 points if your student group was ever unable to find a suitable space for a meeting or performance.
• 1 point for every meal per week you eat at Fly-By, Quincy, or Lowell (only if you don’t live there) because dining hall hours are too short for you to get back to your House between classes and extracurricular activities and/or your House is too far to be easily trekked to and from multiple times per day.
• 2 points if you’re ineligible to receive any House scholarships because you were randomly assigned to one of the poor, new Houses that don’t have them.
• 5 points if you wish you had gone to Princeton or Stanford.
• 4 points if Harvard’s lack of a student center and the apparent deficiency of concern over the inadequate social space on campus riles you up.
• 2 points if you think Harvard’s apparent plan to put undergraduates in Allston makes less sense than creating a professional campus there instead.
• 4 more points if you believe Harvard will put undergrads there anyway.
0 points: You’re Larry Summers.
1-7 points: You’ve enjoyed your Harvard experience thoroughly. You’re the head of the Senior Gift Committee. Give to Senior Gift.
8-15 points: You’ve had a pretty good time at Harvard. You were probably tricked into joining the Senior Gift Committee. Give to Senior Gift.
16-25 points: You didn’t really like Harvard. You’re beginning to think Uncle Morty was right when he told you to go to Yale. Don’t give to Senior Gift.
25+ points: You hate this dump. You piss on the John Harvard Statue sober and always fart in the general direction of University Hall for good measure. Don’t give to Senior Gift. In fact, break into Senior Gift HQ and steal some donations to make up for your bad experience. Just don’t tell them I sent you.
Jason L. Lurie ’05 is a chemistry concentrator in Cabot House. His column appears on alternate Wednesdays.
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