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If Harvard has a center, it is surely the Yard. The Yard is where most students go at least once a day, and where most of their classes are. Yet only a quarter of Harvard’s student body lives in the Yard. The rest are scattered in Houses within a three-quarter mile radius from the Science Center.
These students commute to classes and many, especially those from the Quad, don’t leave the Yard until late in the evening. One small innovation would be to have Harvard provide upperclassmen with lockers in the Yard to keep whatever stuff they need during the day.
The tweak is simple, but significant. One could certainly argue that students should simply carry less stuff around with them each day. However, in the jam-packed schedules of most Harvard students, this is often not an option, and to their credit, most students aren’t complaining. But the situation, though not dire, could still be improved. An appropriate analogy is with the fly-by lunch service, which allows students to grab food in the yard without having to return to their Houses. Its absence did not cause a visible inconvenience, but its presence proves a great help.
The image of lockers or backpacks cluttering the halls is more commonly associated with high school than college. This need not be the case. Artfully-concealed cubby holes, or cubicles integrated with their surroundings—like those at the Kennedy School of Government, for example—are aesthetically unobtrusive, and certainly helpful.
There is, of course, a worry about security. Wouldn’t items left in a cubicle in the Science Center, for example, be stolen? The answer, I hope, is no. Theft at Harvard is generally low, but if theft were a concern, these cubicles or lockers could be locked in the way they are at the MAC or at Hemenway.
At the end of the day, there is simply a lot of stuff to lug around: books for sections; notebooks for labs; computers for lecture; an umbrella; and a sweater for those sudden drops in temperature after class.
One hopes that the College won’t wait for an epidemic of back pains before implementing this idea. You shouldn’t have to show that something is killing students before the College makes a change. Improvement happens on the margins. A better campus starts with baby steps.
Reva P. Minkoff ’08, a Crimson editorial editor, is a government concentrator in Pforzheimer House.
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