Digging for Intellectual Freedom

They have no titles. They cast off bureaucracy for what one member describes as “effortocracy.” They have “digs,” not meetings. ...

They have no titles. They cast off bureaucracy for what one member describes as “effortocracy.” They have “digs,” not meetings. So what is it exactly that the Diggers do?

According to member Talia N. Lavin ’12, the Diggers are committed to creating ways for students to come together and share ideas, feeding already-established  passions and sparking new ones. Frustrated with the “intellectual parochialism” she sees at Harvard, Lavin wants people—herself included —to feel free to abandon the “pre-formed self-definition” that makes many scared to venture outside their specialties.

As for the 1960s hippie collective in Haight-Ashbury that shares the Diggers’ name: “We’re a little more institutional and stodgy than they, but it’s all the same idea: freedom and self-empowerment,” Lavin explained.

The Diggers Society hosted its first event, a student lecture series, on February 5. Topics included democratic theory, flight map reading, modern Hebrew, and even happiness.

Leslie R. Rith-Najarian ’12, a psychology concentrator, spoke about the effect that stress’s role as the “weather topic” at Harvard has on students’ moods. She’s already had many listeners tell her that they’re applying her lessons; even Lavin now asks herself, “What would Leslie do?”

Speaker Joshua J. Nuni ’10 lectured on his thesis on political theory, using it to segue into a discussion about the Diggers. He attended Deep Springs, a two-year college of about 25 male students in the California desert. Listening to the student speakers at the event, Nuni says that he almost felt as though he were back at Deep Springs.

“Aside from an op-ed, how do you talk to the student body at Harvard? Where’s the forum? It’s literally non-existent,” said Nuni, who has been working to create a student center at Harvard.

Nuni would like to see the Diggers go further, holding events in the spirit of Tuesday meeting at Deep Springs, in which anyone present could go up and speak.

The Diggers have a similar idea—they’ll host their first storytelling exchange next Friday.

“Our tagline is ‘creating a sense of intellectual community and thriving public discourse at Harvard,’” said Lavin. “Storytelling is literal public discourse.”