As every Harvard graduate knows, it is not the brand-name of international renown, the consistent media scrutiny of its miniscule acceptance rate, the rockstar faculty, or its students’ composite SAT scores that set Harvard apart from its “peer” institutions. Indeed, it is rather our uncanny ability to predict the future that makes Harvard graduates first among equals.
Those of you who have graduated or are about to graduate from Harvard need not read on; for those of you not gifted with our brand of prescience, I offer you a glimpse of Harvard’s future—of what will happen to the University over the next 50 years.
About half of the students in the Class of 2005 will rest on their laurels. Those in the other half will seize the day, make a difference, eat fire in large gulps over pints of brew in Valhalla, burn like a phoenix amidst the Northern Lights, and otherwise make the most of themselves.
After experimenting with disciplinary, interdisciplinary, even post-disciplinary study, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) will reverse course and embrace “mega-disciplinarity.” This will entail weekly “rumbles” in Tercentenary Theater between two departments randomly picked out of a hat by the provost. Departments will begin to tenure ringers based on their teaching skills, their reputation in their respective fields, and their ability to wield a two by four in brass knuckles.
Quoting Jared Diamond’s latest pop historio-sociological study, “The Lion, the Witch and the Demographic Catastrophe,” University President Lawrence H. Summers will claim at a conference in 2010 that short people may be genetically predisposed to be short. He will not release the transcript of his remarks until groups representing the vertically challenged around the country call for his resignation.
Harvard University Dining Services will announce that popcorn chicken causes a rare form of lymphoma common in lab mice.
A third of the Class of 2005 will die mysteriously of a rare form of lymphoma common in lab mice.
In 2040, the College will appoint an associate dean for bowel movements after a Harvard School of Public Health study links problems with regularity to spending long winters in large brick buildings. Something about the iron content in the bricks. Dean of the College Jacob Hale Russell ’05 will claim that the new appointment addresses a pressing absence of deanlets and will nicely complement the work of the assistant dean for animal control and the associate dean for undergraduate lighting.
After flailing intellectually for another two decades in the barren wilderness of deconstruction, pioneers in the Literature Department will develop “reconstruction,” leading to a revolution in the way those in the Literature Department think about thinking about thinking about literature. Their counterparts in the Department of English and American Literature and Language will perform “close readings” of texts in a vague attempt to extract meaning from obviously significant textual minutiae, such as the prominent use of the definite article.
Mather House will in fact become an East German train depot.
After another 49 years of effort, the Harvard College Curricular Review’s General Education Committee will decline to release its recommendations—which conform to the “basically do what Yale does but save Justice” approach to reforming the Core—and instead opt to start over from scratch. Again.
In 2015, an errant laser pointer will reveal that FAS Dean William C. Kirby is really a hologram projected from the sundial on Mass. Hall, which means that it is physically impossible for him to give interviews to Crimson reporters except in specially designated areas of the Harvard campus during certain times of the month. It will also explain Kirby’s reluctance to shake hands, eat, and smile in front of faculty and students.
Domineering spatial thinkers in the Government Department will discover the secret to political science (pictured).
The University will build two new undergraduate Houses in Allston. Pusey House will be riot proof and Rudenstine House will have a large endowment (but it will nestle inconspicuously into the scenery). Frank Gehry will design both of them to resemble an enraged industrial refrigerator.
And, finally, despite what ranks of Commencement speakers will claim (no doubt to keep non-Harvard grads in the dark about the whole seeing-the-future thing), the Class of 2005 is destined to trudge willingly down the comfortably worn paths of the American meritocracy, today greeting a society in which our capacity for free choice and truly outstanding achievement is severely limited by an increasingly globalized world. But at least we know it in advance.
Stephen W. Stromberg ’05 is a Russian Studies concentrator in Adams House. He was editorial chair of The Crimson in 2004.
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